Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jul 11 2015, Page 41

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - July 11, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE B6 BUSINESS BUSINESS EDITOR: SHANE MINKIN 204- 697- 7308 I BUSINESS. DESK@ FREEPRESS. MB. CA I WINNIPEGFREEPRESS. COM SATURDAY, JULY 11, 2015 B 6 S TANDING side by side at a long, steel table, brothers Ryan and Jayson Garces each grab a 5.4- kilogram slab of boneless, top sirloin beef and almost simultaneously begin deftly trimming off thin slices of fat with a big, razor- sharp knife. With a flick of the wrist, they toss the unwanted fat into nearby plastic container, flip over the slab of meat, and do the same thing to the other side. When they’re done the trimming, they pass the slab to a finishing cutter, who carves it into steaks, roasts, or whatever. It’s a scene that can play out hundreds of times over the course of a typical 10- hour shift at the Henry Avenue meat- processing plant — To- Le- Do Foodservices — where the two brothers work. Jayson, 32, is a 2013 graduate of the culinary arts program at Winnipeg’s R. B. Russell Vocational High School. That’s where he learned his basic knife skills. Ryan, on the other hand, learned his skills on the job after landing a meat- packaging position with To- Le- Do about two years ago and working his way up to a meat- trimmer’s job. R. B. Russell has been a bit of a gold mine for To- Le- Do, which had been struggling to find enough meat cutters. Jayson is one of three R. B. Russell graduates the firm has hired over the last two years. The others are Alfredo David, 56, who is also a meat trimmer, and 20- year- old Marie Quintos. Like Ryan, Quintos is starting out as a meat packer. But what she really wants to do is become a meat cutter. Not only is the pay better — it ranges from $ 14 for a junior trimmer to $ 25 per hour for an experienced finishing cutter — but she thinks the work will be more interesting and challenging. Quintos says she’s seen finishing cutters take a big slab of beef and carve it up into perfectly portioned steaks in no time flat. And the only measuring or weighing they did was with their eyes. “ I find it so impressive that they just know how big a six- ounce steak is. I want to be able to do that!” Comments like that are music to the ears of To- Le- Do owner/ president Leigh Young, who says it’s not easy in today’s technology- centric society to find workers, especially younger workers, who are willing to spend up to eight hours a day standing in a 5 C room carving up slabs of meat into steaks, roasts, chops, or whatever else a customer desires. “ For a lot of the young guys coming out of high school in Manitoba, meat cutting is simply not a sexy trade,” he explains. “ So what’s happening, is that we end up ( hiring) a lot of new Canadians... who don’t see any reason why this can’t be a good opportunity for a career.” He notes many of To- Le- Do’s more recent hires have been Asian immigrants. David, Quintos and the Garces brothers, for example, are all originally from the Philippines. ‘ They ( Asians) are very much interested in the food business and in the meat- cutting business,” Young says. “ They enjoy it, and they do well in it.” It’s interesting to note when Young told Qunitos, David and the Garces brothers a reporter wanted to talk to them about why they wanted to become meat cutters, they were so fired up they each took home a list of questions to study that night so they’d be ready for the next day’s interview. And posing for pictures? No problem! Jayson did admit he had some reservations when his R. B. Russell instructor first urged him to consider a career in meat cutting. “ At first I was really afraid of using a knife and standing all day. And it was cold!” But he quickly discovered he really enjoyed the work. Now, like Ryan, David and Quintos, he’s eager to become a finishing cutter and make a career out of it . To- Le- Do, which employs about 10 meat cutters, supplies portion- cut, ready- to- cook, meat products to the food- services industry. Its customers include restaurants, hotels, caterers, banquet facilities, personal care homes and a few independent retailers. Young notes that unlike some provinces, Manitoba doesn’t have a formal meat- cutting program. A few local schools and colleges, like R. B. Russell, the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Red River College and Assiniboine Community College, teach basic knife skills as part of their culinary arts program. But they don’t have a separate meatcutting course, so meat processors usually end up having to provide additional training themselves. But that could soon change. RRC and Assiniboine Community College ( ACC) both hope to begin offering a basic meat- cutting course as soon as next year. RRC is looking at a four- week course that will teach basic knife skills, while ACC is looking at a 15- week course that’s similar to what’s offered at some Alberta colleges. “ Anecdotally there seems to be a lot of demand, both from small abattoirs and retailers and the big ( meat) processors for meat cutters. Older folks are retiring and not being replaced,” says Gerald Cathcart, ACC’s business development co- ordinator. Cathcart says ACC’s course will provide students with basic knife skills and a basic understanding of the business and should prepare them for jobs in either the food- services or meat- processing industries. And it looks like most of the students will be new Canadians, he adds. “ We believe there is a good demand from international students to take a program like this.” RRC had been offering a separate, fourweek meat- cutters’ course up until two years ago, when its culinary arts program moved to its new downtown campus and some aspects of the meat- cutting course were folded into other courses, says Karen McDonald, chairwoman of the college’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts,. However, the program’s instructors and some of the food- services businesses that hire its graduates found the new way of training meat cutters wasn’t as effective as the old way, she adds, which is why the college is looking to go back to the future. McDonald also notes a growing number of restaurants are now buying whole carcasses and carving them up in house so they can offer a wider selection of meat cuts to their customers. And that requires meat cutters. She emphasizes the new course won’t be a stand- alone course. It will still be part of the culinary arts program. “ It all comes down to government funding. If the government came to us and said ‘ We want to fund a ( stand- alone) program,’ of course we would make that happen. But it takes a lot of work to take it from our level to the government and try and convince them ( to do that),” she adds. “ That has to come from industry.” murray. mcneill@ freepress. mb. ca PHOTOS BY BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Brothers Jason ( left) and Ryan Garces are recent R. B. Russell Vocational School graduates who now work as meat cutters in To- Le- Do’s main production plant. With many butchers hanging up their knives, there could be a shortage of meat cutters Carving out a career By Murray McNeill ‘ For a lot of the young guys coming out of high school in Manitoba, meat cutting is simply not a sexy trade’ Marie Quintos works as a meat- packaging specialist in To- Le- Do’s main production plant. B_ 06_ Jul- 11- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B6 7/ 10/ 15 4: 41: 56 PM

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