Meat challenge: $20,000 at stake. Meat Cutters event at Ice Factory produces eight finalists for Meat Cutter of the Year
By Peter Covino
They don’t call it a meat locker for nothing.
Nearly 90 competitors from around the country were literally kept on ice last Wednesday, all vying for the title of Meat Cutter of the Year, as well as the top prize of $20,000.
Kissimmee’s own Ice Factory skating venue was the home court for the unusual competition.
The meat, and the competitors, all wearing the type of coats you don’t normally see in Central Florida, were kept at a fairly constant 36-degrees for the semi-final round of the Texas Roadhouse National Meat Cutting Challenge.
Contestants were given 80 minutes to make precise cuts on chunks of sirloin, rib-eye and filet. The finished cuts of meat are judged on quality, yield and time. The steaks are then measured, weighed and examined for fat content by a team of food techs from Texas Roadhouse, said Kristen Sands, regional marketing director for the popular chain of steakhouse restaurants.
The procedure isn’t that much different than what you find in the kitchen at Texas Roadhouse, Sands said, where meat cutters prepare the steaks prior to a dining experience at the restaurant.
“Texas Roadhouse is one of only a few casual restaurants,” that cut and trim steaks right in the kitchen, Sands said.
Many of the competitors also came from the various Texas Roadhouse locations around the country, advancing to the semi-final round from regional challenges.
Eight of the 87 competitors, the one with the highest scores, will move onto the final round at Amelia Island, April 27, to claim a stake at the $20,000 first prize, as well as the coveted title of Meat Cutter of the Year.
Sands said Javier Valees, who works at the Texas Roadhouse in Kissimmee, got as far as the second round at the Ice Factory, but didn’t make it to the semi-final round.
Some contestants get a bit shaky during the event, but it’s not necessarily from the cold.
“My heart is still beating fast,” said Jose Garcia, as the competition wrapped up and he turned in his entries. Garcia is a competitor from a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in San Antonio. He has entered before, but it is the first time he made it to the semi-finals.
The good news for Garcia: He gets to be nervous all over again. He made it to the finals.
The other winners who will move on to the finals competition are: Shawn Haynes, Palm Bay; Matt Willis, Coralville, Iowa; Abraham Carmona, Edwardsville, Ill.; Reynaldo Delgado, San Antonio, Texas; Bernie Rojas, Middletown, N.Y.; Dan Willick, Duluth, Minn.; and Fermin Guarcas, Cranston, R.I.
The eight winners will also receive an interesting gift from A-1 Steaksauce, a case of steak sauce with each bottle in the case having the face of the individual winners on it.
So what do you do with the hundreds of pounds of meat used in the competition?
You have a really, big steak dinner, of course.
The public was invited to lunch following the competition, and got a hand-cut steak, two made from scratch side dishes, rolls and a soft drink for only $10. And all of the proceeds went to Give Kids the World, the Kissimmee resort that provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, a week-long cost-free fantasy vacation. Give Kids the World received more than $2,000 from the event.
But there was still more leftover steak, said Sands. And it won’t go to waste. The St. Cloud Food Pantry, which provides food for area needy families, will be distributing steak dinners.