Irvinestown butcher Stephen Millar has described being crowned one of the world’s top butchers as “one of the proudest moments” in his career to date.

Stephen was one of the six-man Irish team which competed in the 2018 World Butchers’ Challenge last Wednesday.
This was the first time an Irish team competed in the World Butchers’ Challenge and they took on eleven other nations: Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and USA.
Describing it as “incredible” that team Ireland won on its first attempt, Stephen explained that the team members had 16 months of gruelling training to prepare for the prestigious competition.
He was described by event organisers as “a traditional style butcher from Fermanagh whose family is thoroughly involved in the business and the meat sold at Stephen’s shop can be sourced directly back to his family’s livestock.”
The concept of the World Butchers’ Challenge, is to develop an environment where butchers strive to exceed current industry practice in the areas of general workmanship, meat cutting, displaying and the creative usage of beef, lamb and pork product. Each team has three hours and 15 minutes to transform a beef side, a side of pork, a full lamb carcass and five chickens into an eye-catching and innovative display, using all of the meat. Independent judges oversee the displays and score the teams based on butchery skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish, presentation and/or display.
Team Ireland were deemed to winners for their “outstanding display of butchery skills and creativity,” according to a spokesman for the event.
From filling in the initial application form over a year ago, Stephen made it through a number of trails to earn his place on the team. From there, he “trained hard and constant” in his workplace and once a week with his team mates at various locations around Ireland.
“When you thought you had it displayed perfectly, there was always that bit of finesse that could be added to make it look better,” he explained.
It was a 4am start last Wednesday and at 7.30am Stephen and his team proudly marched to their workstation in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to the strains of ‘Ireland’s Call’.
“It made the hairs stand on the back of your neck. They also played it during the competition and the local audience really got behind us and that spurred us on,” said Stephen.
Describing the team’s butchery performance, Stephen said: “We worked as hard as we ever did in our life. We had to bring the cuts of meat down to their primals and try to give as much added value as well as modern, innovative thinking.”
Their display included Tomahawk steaks, easy carve legs of lamb, beef macaroons, beef sandwiches, chicken galantine and a range of sausages.
Hearing that Team Ireland had won was an “unreal” experience for Stephen, who hopes that this accolade “will help to spread the word of the world-class quality of Irish and Northern Irish produce across the globe.”
Back in his butcher’s shop this week, Stephen is thankful for all the messages of support and congratulations he has received from his customers and notes that his win would not have been possible had it not been for the support of his wife Clare and his staff.