Continuing on with our introduction to the T&G team during National Butchers' Week, next up is Sophie Cumber. Who not only works in the shop but also runs our Butchery Classes in the evenings and takes care of customer relations.

AND you may well have seen Sophie in action at Meatopia, as she often takes centre stage in The Cutting Room, showing off her knife skills and demo-ing how to break down carcasses. There's not much that Sophie can't do really!

Sophie Cumber

OK, so when did you start in butchery and how?

At Barbecoa butchers. I wanted to learn more about the industry after studying at Leith’s School of Food and Wine. Little did I know I would still be doing it 5 years on!

Who taught you how to butcher? Or tell us about your mentor?

I have learnt different skills, from lots of fantastic butchers and there is always something to learn from each other. But I must mention the late Marco Peerdeman, aka Orange butcher, who gave me my first chance in the industry and instilled in me a passion for proper, caring butchery.

What do you enjoy most about butchery?

The process of breaking down whole carcasses and seeing every part go out to be cooked in people's homes.

How you seen many changes in the industry along way?

Definitely. Even in the short time I have been butchering. You can see that people care a lot more about provenance than ever before and as butchers, we need to reflect that with our knowledge to be relevant to consumers.

Why should people visit their butcher?

Every animal and therefore each piece of meat, should be treated with respect. Buying meat from a quality butchers means that the animal will have had a better life and that none of its product has gone to waste.

Do you have any funny stories to tell about your time in the game?

My bum got slapped accidentally about a month after I had started in the industry (as the only woman in a 10-man shop). Thankfully, I could tell it was a mistake and the guy was so embarrassed, but neither of us mentioned it for over a year. When he eventually fessed up, I informed him I had known all along. 

What is your favourite meat/cut/joint?

I always think that lamb is my favourite meat to eat, and to butcher. It is so satisfying to start with a whole animal. But it is a precious meat, so it needs a delicate touch. It is also fatty and delicious!!! 

Sophie01

I want to show off for a dinner party, what’s a quick and easy way to do it?

Hmm, for a big group, I wouldn’t go in for something quick. There’s too much juggling! If anything, I would suggest something cooked low and slow for a dinner party. I am a big fan of shoving a casserole in the oven for a long time, to soak up loads of flavour. Saying that, something like Richard Turner’s Maple Roasted Leg of Lamb is a bit of a show-stopper, and is really quite easy to pull off.

Do you have any secrets of the trade to share?

Be open minded, every piece of meat has the potential to be something delicious

What do you see for the future of butchery?

Hopefully, we'll see more independent, local butchers opening up, so everyone has the opportunity to get to know their own butchers and go back to a better way of buying meat

How does butchery in the UK differ from abroad?

Unfortunately, I would say people in the UK are less accustomed to going to their local butchers than many European countries. But we are trying to change that!!

Are you fan of offal?

Sometimes. I must admit, I have to be in the right mood for offal but there is a lot to be said for stuffed and braised lamb heart.

What is the secret of a good sausage/burger?

Keep it simple. As the long as you use quality meat, then everything else will follow.

What is your favourite cut of steak and why?

Well-aged rump. Rump has the best flavour and when it has been aged and butchered properly, it has none of the 'toughness' it is often tarnished with.

Should butchers be tipped for their services if they go the extra mile!?!

No, it is part of the service. But it is always nice to be appreciated!!

Is it better to work from whole carcass, if so, why?

Absolutely. You get to utilise very part and you know so much more about the provenance when it comes into the shop.

In one three words, sum up what it means to be a butcher.

Passion, knowledge, strength.

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