I left school to be a butcher, it’s really all I’ve ever known and the passion has remained.
Back in 1993, I started in a butcher shop as the cleanup boy. I had to work for a couple of hours in the morning before school and I'd get back for a couple of hours in the evening after. They were simple tasks but important.
About three months into the year, the guy that I was doing the cleaning for asked me if I was interested in becoming a butcher through an apprenticeship. With such a big leap of faith and opportunity, I actually left school to pursue it.
Unfortunately, not long after that, he actually sold the business and because I was qualified, I was left stranded really. We didn’t see eye to eye and the idea of becoming a full-time butcher left me relatively quickly. So, I decided I would give farming a go.
While working on the farm we learnt to do the slaughter side as well, I realised this related heavily to my apprenticeship modules and continued to study it on the job. It only took 18 months until the calling to be back in a butchers shop caught me again.
When I returned, I completed the apprenticeship that was put on hold two years prior.
In 1995, I headed back into the shop, the competitor to my first job. It was a positive place with plenty of learning. So much so, I won the New Zealand Butcher Apprentice of the year in 1995. Things were looking good, this was what I was meant to do.
For more opportunities, we moved to Christchurch and I started working in a butcher's shop here for six months. Although it went perfectly well, I was drawn away into a fantastic opportunity at the CPIT meat school, as a butchery tutor.
All of the apprentice butchers in the South Island used to come to us for our block courses and we'd train them on different techniques and requirements. It was somewhat different than what they were learning in the shop and also the theory got them thinking hard about their careers.
In 2004, I left the Polytechnic to actually purchase my own shop. We grew that place into a good business and supplied many of the high end restaurants around New Zealand.
For a few years, things were going well. I was busy, we were in a flow and clients were good.
Then it hit us.
A magnitude 7.1 Earthquake. It wiped out the majority our business and clients. We were all forced to head elsewhere.
At the time of the earthquake, I had a wholesale factory in the Wigram Industrial Area. When the earthquake struck, I lost 101 customers instantly, with a mixture of restaurants and cafes. It was tough times, times we have had to get used to here in Canterbury.
I didn't want to give up on what I've just spent 9 years building. Never far from the profession, I became a sales rep within the meat industry - specialising in sausages. Not long after that, I opened a retail shop on Colombo Street and tried to revive the retail experience and what we had left. I maintained a little bit of our wholesale, but also tried to get back into the retail scene dealing with the customer.
At the time, it just wasn't working enough for us. We were told that Colombo street would be the first area of Christchurch to be fixed, but it wasn’t - not even close. So we persevered for another two years after the earthquake, finding small opportunities throughout.
It was March 2013 when I decided that I needed to get away from it and refresh, after going through the earthquake, losing what I’d lost in it, and feeling burnt out it was time a change; we’ve all been there.
That's why I jumped into a sales role where I could still share my passion, work with other butchers and try and help them with what they were doing.
Around 2014, I’d been in London competing at the world’s Butchery event. Our team won!
After going so far and celebrating this momentous occasion, we got back to work and studied the British shops in depth. When the passion from our fellow butchers shone through, I knew I needed to do something when I was home.
Determined to buy another shop and get back into it, Elite Meats came on the market, and I bought it.
I've done all labels of the profession; from a stint in the Freezing works to sales rep, to retailing, to wholesaling, to teaching, and competing. But I knew this next chapter was going to be the most impact to my customers.
I believe a lot of people would back me up in my passion and attitude on a national scale. My drive for the industry is unmatched but I prove this in the quality we produce. I love this job, I love the work and our customers because when they shop with me, they know they’re getting the best.
If you jumped on my Facebook page and went through a lot of the comments over the last few weeks during COVID-19, you can see evidence of this. The team and I are going through this with you, and therefore we ensure our products are at the quality you expect.
Not to mention, we’re the only supplier who has a mobile butchery. We wouldn’t give that van up for anything. It’s helped hundreds of Cantabs get the perfect meal sorted and remains a New Zealand first. That, alongside our new shop and new website prove that we’re on a mission this year.
A mission of good food and excellent service, and you're invited to join us.