Mother Nature threw everything she had at the nation's top butchers, who were vying for a swag of prizes at the Australian Meat Industry Council's national awards on the weekend, but in the end they proved you can't beat a barbie.
The gala event, the culmination of a year-long process of regional and state heats, was scheduled to be held in the Blue Mountains, but under threat of bushfire organisers moved it to the Central Coast - only to be met with some of the heaviest rains seen in years.
Even so, dozens of finalists showed off their best snags, burgers and smallgoods and the event was deemed a huge success that reflected the skill, passion and pride of the industry.
AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said it wasn't quite the beach view imagined, but inside the venue finalists were focused on the task at hand.
"Finalists had refined their ingredients and taken on feedback from their own customers - and I know those customers will be excited to get their hands on some award-winning products," he said.
The awards program includes the National Sausage King awards, which are all about finding the nation's best bangers. This ultimate sausage sizzle sees snags across six categories assessed for flavour, texture, shrinkage, splitting and crinkling.
"Finalists have to meet a range of stringent criteria. In particular, they must ensure their sausages meet Australian Food Standards Code by containing at least 50 percent fat free meat," Mr Hutchinson said.
The annual competition is open to the 3200-plus independent butchers in Australia and is considered the meat industry's premier competition program.
"It gives us an opportunity to recognise our best butchers but it is also about the wider industry. Whether they're in a major metro shopping centre or in a tin shop in a rural town, butchers are highly skilled tradespeople. The butcher shop is not just a place to grab some meat for the freezer, it's where people go to try new and interesting products, to get ideas for meals and meal planning, and of course to support local business and shop local."
National Sausage Week
This week is the first ever National Sausage Week, a whole week dedicated to the humble snag and the amazing local butchers behind them.
Independent butchers will celebrate Sausage Week with in-store promotions, competitions and specials, including new sausage recipes released especially for the week.
"Many people think of the sausage as being a pretty simple product, but in fact there is a huge range of options from traditional to gourmet, and there's a great deal of skill that goes into creating the perfect sausage. We want to encourage everyone to visit their local butcher this week and pick up some sausages. Go for your favourite and why not try something new, too," Mr Hutchinson says.
2020 National Apprentice of the Year: Bonnie Ewan, Lucas Quality Meats, Bronte, NSW
- Milan Matutinovich, The Corner Butcher, Morley, WA (Traditional Australian Beef and Gourmet/Open Class)
- Shaun Bartles, Hygienic Butchery, Somerset, Tas (Traditional Australian Pork)
- Pierre Mastromanno, Piero's Meat Merchant, Highett, Vic (Poultry)
- Craig Klingberg, Our Butcher @ Cowell, Cowell, SA (Australian Lamb/Open)
- Brad Cammack, Rode Meats, Stafford Heights, QLD (Continental)
- Patrick Rundell, Tender Gourmet Butchery, Eastgardens, NSW (Best Butcher Beef Burger)
- Kory Edwards, South Nowra Meats, South Nowra, NSW (Best Butcher Gourmet Burger)
- Jason Dargaville, Flora Hill Quality Meats, Flora Hill, Vic (Leg Ham on the Bone)
- John Andrew, The Meat-Inn Place, Lilydale, Vic (Boneless Leg Ham)
- David Surman, Sunvalley Fine Foods, Forest Glen, QLD (Bacon)