Cathie Anderson

Gentlemen, start your cleavers: 2 from Sacramento to vie in World Butchers’ Challenge

Danny Johnson, of Taylor’s Market, moves some of the oak and grape tree trimmings to a burn pile on its farm.
Danny Johnson, of Taylor’s Market, moves some of the oak and grape tree trimmings to a burn pile on its farm.

Sacramento butchers Danny Johnson and Paul Carras of Taylor’s Market will compete on the first-ever USA team at the World Butchers’ Challenge 2018 in Belfast.

“Three of us from California, a guy from South Carolina, a guy from Texas and a guy from Virginia will be competing against 12 other countries,” said Johnson, whose reputation soared nationally in 2010 when Time magazine featured him in an article about the resurgence of his trade.

In 2013, Johnson and Carras led a Taylor’s Market team that won the Flying Knives butchering competition at the Eat Real Festival in Oakland. They have continued to lead demonstrations for The Butchers Guild, and also teach sold-out classes on their trade at Taylor’s in Sacramento.

Johnson, who has co-owned Taylor’s Market at 2900 Freeport Blvd. and the adjoining restaurant since 1987, will formally announce the honor to guests at a sold-out Saturday dinner that his restaurant is catering at Richards Ranch in Oregon House. His butchering team will also be doing butchering demonstrations ahead of the dinner.

A note at The Butchers Guild lists other team members as Bryan “Best Butcher in Texas” Butler, charcuterie master Craig Deihl of South Carolina, Virginia’s gourmet sausage guy Lothar Erbe and John Fink of San Francisco’s Whole Beast. The U.S. butchers will compete March 20-22 next year against teams from countries such as Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, New Zealand and Australia.

“Paul and I are flattered as heck to be representing Sacramento on this team,” Johnson said. “It’s a pretty big thing.”

The U.S. butchers are planning to meet up and “scrimmage” at Taylor’s Market to develop their working chemistry.

“The New Zealand team practices seven or eight times a year. These guys are nuts,” Johnson said. “France won last year. … This is the first time that USA was asked. We’ve already been accepted.”

The French win ended a New Zealand streak of three consecutive titles. The World Butchers’ Challenge began in 2011 as a rivalry between New Zealand and Australia. Each team will have three hours, 15 minutes to cut up half a beef cow, half a hog and a whole lamb, Johnson said. They will be judged on their skill and creativity with the many cuts and value-added products such as sausages.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee