Armand Ferrante, a Whole Foods Market butcher from Middletown, N.J., won the company’s 2012 national Best Butcher competition finale held at Meatopia, the nation’s largest celebration of meat, on Saturday in New York City.
Through months of nationwide competitions with more than 300 professional Whole Foods meat cutters, Ferrante cut and carved his way to the Best Butcher national championship, where he went head-to-head with two other finalists. The title match included a trio of knife-wielding tasks including:
- Making a Turducken by deboning a turkey and chicken and adding duck breast,
- Merchandising a whole lamb
- Creating a new-to-the-meat-case “cut” from a beef forequarter.
The Jersey Boneless Short Rib, the new “cut” Ferrante created for the contest, will be featured in all Whole Foods stores starting Sept. 15, for $8.99 per pound. Armand also won a trip to Iceland’s Food & Fun Festival (February 2013, Reykjavik) and a year’s worth of bragging rights.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized for the job I do every day – and have done nearly every day for the last 40 years,” said Ferrante. “The Jersey Boneless Short Rib is a cut that’s versatile and easy to cook – one I am proud to bring to my customers. To me, that’s the most important part: helping each customer find the best meat for their meal, then getting their feedback. It’s keeping people happy, and that’s rewarding.”
Theo Weening, global meat buyer at Whole Foods, added, “Being a great butcher is about more than cutting meat; it’s finding new ways to make the most of the animal and be creative with tasty offerings at a good value. It was a tough competition and Armand really earned this. I believe his cut will appeal to shoppers who are looking for something new, delicious and affordable.”
The two runners-up and the innovative new beef ideas they presented were:
- Jon “Kabali” Kalabolas (Lafayette, Calif.) with his “Kabali Steak,” cut from the shoulder clod
- Andy “The Animal” Alcorn (Fort Collins, Colo.) with his “Jacob’s Ladder Short Ribs,” short ribs tied with herbs
Chef Tim Byres of SMOKE Restaurant in Dallas joined Whole Foods’ Edmund LaMacchia, global VP of perishables, and Theo Weening, global meat buyer, to judge the contest. They selected Armand and the Jersey Boneless Short Rib as the winner for a combination of creativity, yield and versatility.
“As a chef, it’s important to know the craft of butchery remains alive and well – partially because it’s an age-old tradition, and partially because it’s fun to cook new and innovative cuts like the Jersey Boneless Short Rib,” said Chef Byres. “I tip my hat to Armand for his talent, passion and creativity.”
Chef Byres spotlighted the contestants’ original beef cuts with a custom recipe – a Dry Rubbed Best Butcher Steak with Pickled Celery, Mustard Caviar and Buttermilk – that he served up to Meatopia attendees. A recipe for Chef Byres’ BBQ Beef Chile Rub & Coffee Cure is available at www.wholefoodsmarket.com.
In addition to showcasing the expertise of Whole Foods Market’s butchers, the contest highlighted the importance of transparency in sourcing and animal welfare labeling. Whole Foods’ long-standing quality standards for meat include no antibiotics – ever, no added hormones, and no animal byproducts in feed. Plus, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating is customers’ way of knowing how the animals were raised for the meat they’re buying.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods operates more than 325 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.