A pork and beef country, the Philippines has developed its cuisine in the backdrop of the most abundant meat sources. Nothing beats the deadliest of the dishes – lechon, caldereta, and kare-kare.
Yet as the foodservice industry turns to a larger buffet of choices for meat, with lamb consumption growing as reported by the exporter group Meat and Livestock Australia, even the Filipino butchers would have to ride with the trend and improve their skills to meet the demand.
The Chefs on Parade 2013 saw HRM students and professional butchers in different battles of cutting meat and using the appropriate cooking methods with the right cuts.
Experts Paul Perez, country representative of MLA, and Raphael Ramirez, an MLA certified master butcher, noted that the country’s best butchers still have a long way to go in “innovating” with meat, not necessarily with lamb only.
“We’ve noticed a lot of the problems in the Philippines are very basic butchering skills,” said Perez. “In butchering now, what people look at is innovation. We’re far from it. Maybe we’re good at the basic cutting skills, but in innovation– maximization and utilization of the meat–we’re not there yet.”
Ramirez, a butcher judge during the professional and student contests at COP, said that students lacked the basic knowledge on matching the right cut with the appropriate cooking technique.
“I think, overall, Filipinos have a good understanding of food in general. I think the students handled the challenges very well. Some of the basics, you wouldn’t probably expect the young ones to understand that. But what’s important is cutting against the grain and what cuts and cooking methods marry together,” he said.
Only five out of 12 student participants in the MLA Young Chef Pencil Box Culinary Challenge had cut the meat against the grain. The student contest requires participants to prepare a number of courses out of Australian meat.
On the professional side, Perez noted that Filipinos need to be more creative in avoiding wastage and improving the value of the meat.
A significant area in the Iron Butcher Challenge, a competition where a participant is given a whole carcass to cut, is the value-adding component. “Value-adding means whatever the cut is, if it is seen as a low grade, you need to increase its value by being creative,” Perez said.
While Ramirez commended Filipino butchers for hitting the right cutting line, he also said nine out of the 12 participants hadn’t experienced cutting lamb before. Lamb is the competition’s carcass.
“We need more butchers who’ll understand cooking and how to work with chefs,” said Ramirez.