A great steak starts with a good meat grade and the perfect cut. This is why a meat cutter has an essential important role in the ‘steak’ market. One has to be skilled and precise in the way he hand-cuts the meat to ensure the best quality and flavor.
Take it from 37-year-old Joel Herher, a local meat-cutting champion at Texas Roadhouse who recently represented the country at the first Regional Meat Cutter Challenge in Taipei, Taiwan.
He is a ‘roadie’ (a meat cutter in Texas Roadhouse parlance), is well-trained in terms of precision and is detail-oriented working in a meat room at a chilly temperature.
A cut above the rest
Herher began his meat-cutting history in 2008 when he trained as a butcher at a local meat shop and was then deployed in different supermarkets around Metro Manila. He also spent five years in Qatar as a butcher for a big catering company before deciding to return to the Philippines. He joined The Bistro Group in 2017.
“I started as an all-around butcher for all the concepts before I was recommended to exclusively work for Texas Roadhouse where I studied the specifications and technicalities of steak-cutting. I was amazed because of all the new things I learned,” he shares.
Every butcher is trained to cut rib roasts, rib-eyes and back ribs. “From the short loin, we cut our T-bones, top loins, tenderloins and the porterhouse steaks,” Herher explaims.
At Texas Roadhouse, he points out, steaks are legendary because of the meticulously defined hand-cut steaks that are grilled to perfection according to guests’ preferences. Steaks specs are difficult because one must cut everything in precise measurements. Rib Eye should be portioned as 10oz, 12oz, and 16oz; while the bone-in cuts are pegged at 22oz. Sirloins (which are used in beef stews and Steak Rice) should be either at 6oz, 8oz, and 11oz while New York Strips should come in 8oz and 16oz only. Furthermore, meatcutters are required to cut a slab of of Ribe Eye (at 10z, for instance) into 18 portions, trimmings and wastage minimized. All transformations are cut in accordance to the criteria of Texas Roadhouse around the world. And while other butchers use machines for slicing frozen meat, meat cutters at the restaurant use knives and carving tools to skillfully hand-cut each fresh primal and turn them into steaks.
They are also trained to make the best marbling because it gives the steak its flavor, but too much will spoil it. “Thus, we have a cut-across-the-grain technique to maintain just the right marbling so the restaurant can serve the tastiest, most succulent steaks,” Herher adds.
Imported meat needs to be thawed for three to five days before we can actually clean fat trimmings and cut them accurately into specific steaks. A badly-cut steak—which is either overweight or underweight—loses its flavor and value. The perfect cut consisting of the standard weight, thickness, and size, plus time precision in thawing, on the other hand, will result in a consistently tender and flavorful steak. Good meat cutters should keep these important points in mind all the time.
Texas Roadhouse’s cutting edge
Over a decade ago, Texas Roadhouse USA created the annual Meat Cutting Challenge. Local competitions in each country are held to determine the winner who will then compete in the regional championship. Champion butchers then advance to the international cut-off for a chance to win the grand prize of $20,000 and the coveted “Meat Cutter of the Year” award.
During the competition, each participant receives about 40 pounds of beef to cut— sirloin, filet and rib-eye. Within an hour in a chilly 35C arena, butchers cut the meat into as many steaks as possible. The contestants are judged on the quality and precision of all the steaks in terms of length, width, height. They are also judged on quality, yield, and speed. Whoever yields the most steaks with the highest quality cut in the least amount of time and the least wastage wins.
“It was Mark Stephen himself, Texas Roadhouse’s International Director For Operations, who told us that the restaurant’s meat-cutters are the most important workers of the company. That felt good. I now have a special regard for myself, my fellow butchers here, and the vital role we play at Texas Roadhouse. I need to focus and always try to give all customers the perfect cut,” Herher concludes.
So the next time you order the legendary steaks at Texas Roadhouse, you know they were perfectly cut fresh that morning by the best meat-cutters in the world. It’s not only their job. It’s their passion, their way of life.
Texas Roadhouse branches are located at Uptown Mall, BGC; Conrad S’Maison; Robinsons Manila; Evia Lifestyle Center and Greenbelt 5 (FB and IG: texasroadhouseph)