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    Whole Foods Holds National Best Butcher Contest

    Master butchers from around the country will compete in New York City

    Following several weeks of regional competitions among top butchers at Whole Foods Market stores across the country, 11 finalists in the retailer's Best Butcher Competition will go head-to-head for the national title of "Best Butcher" during semi-finals and finals to be held in New York later this month.

    The contest will be held at the 2011 Amstel Light Meatopia presented by Whole Foods on July 23 at New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park and will showcase how professional butchers execute and merchandise the perfect cuts.

    "We have trained butchers in every single store, which really sets us apart,” said Theo Weening, global meat buyer for Whole Foods. “Reminiscent of old-fashioned butcher shops, our butchers provide one-on-one customer service offering information about our quality products and tips for preparation. We came up with the competition idea to celebrate these highly regarded in-house butchers and spotlight the art of butchery—a pursuit that takes a high degree of skill and years of experience to master."

    Whole Foods Market's Best Butcher Competition takes the idea of popular culinary battles to a new level by allowing an audience to witness this clash of the cleavers in-person. Held an ideal setting for meat lovers, Meatopia, this final stage of competition features two preliminary rounds with the top two finalists from each round advancing to the final competition. Participants will be judged on presentation, workmanship, and knife-handling skills. Both early rounds of competition will be accompanied by cooking demonstrations by noted Chefs Michael White (Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini, Marea) and Michael Psilakis (Kefi, Fish Tag, MP Taverna).

    As butchers with extensive experience, training and technique, the regional Whole Foods finalists are awarded with an all-expense paid trip to New York and will be charged with having to use professional equipment with precision to break down meat without sacrificing its integrity. They include:

    • Gil "Moon" Baxter of Sebastopol, Calif.
    • David "Deadly Headley" Headley of Aventura, Florida
    • Joe "Joey Meat Hooks" Malito of Bellingham, Mass.
    • Larry "Badda Boom Badda Bing" Mola of Annapolis, Md.,
    • Eric "Eric the Butcher" Moody of Pasadena, Calif.
    • Craig "Papa Bear" Pawlowski of Rochester Hills, Mich.
    • Scott "Rosie" Rosenberg of Bellevue, Wash.
    • Abie "The Machine" Sanchez of Albuquerque, N.M.
    • Hans "Grizz" Van Der Enden of Dallas, Texas
    • Orlando "O Da Butcher" Vega of New York, N.Y.
    • Greg "Woody" Woodfield of Memphis, Tenn.

    The Best Butcher Competition kicked off in May at Whole Foods stores across the country with more than 300 butchers participating. The semi-final competition begins at 6 p.m. on July 23 and the final round is slated for 9 p.m. For tickets to Meatopia including the Best Butcher Competition, visit meatopia.org.

    Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods operates more than 300 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

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