The knives were out today with six apprentice butchers competing for the national Competenz Apprentice Butcher title in Auckland.
Just like his knife, Hohepa Smith (Ngāti Porou) and Vernon Atutahi (Raukawa ki Wharepuhunga) have been sharpening their skills. The two Māori apprentices are among the six finalists going head-to-head for this year's Competenz champion title.
Smith says, “I'm as ready as I can be. Practical training in the last two weeks, a lot of study in my spare time.”
Atutahi says, “For me personally, it's just to see how I've progressed as an apprentice, and see where I'm at against the top in New Zealand.”
According to Hohepa's whānau, his success is due to the great support he receives.
His mother, Paddy Waerehu says, “Thanks to his boss Riki Kerekere, he was the one support him all the way through.”
Riki Kerekere says, “He's got the potential to go on to be not just a great butcher, within our business, maybe somewhere else, go overseas, and he's got the potential to be a great leader, whānau, community.”
To even compete at this level means the world is his oyster.
Judge, Matt Grimes says, “As an industry this is the pinnacle, so if you win the Competenz Apprentice Butcher competition, it's a stepping stone, gets you promoted within the industry.”
Tonight, the winner will be announced at an awards dinner. Regardless of the results, for Hohepa's family, he's already won.
Paddy Waerehu says, “He’s still a winner. He's still a winner, no matter what.”
A $10,000 scholarship will be awarded to the winner of the national Competenz Apprentice Butcher title.