Award Sharpens Bonnie’s Butcher Skills
After beginning her career as a trainee chef, Bonnie Corban soon discovered she had a flair for butchery and has moved on to become an apprentice at the family-owned Lucas Meats in Bronte.
Many would think that a female couldn’t make the cut in such a male-dominated industry, but Bonnie has proved the sceptics wrong by becoming the Australian Meat Industry 2019 Apprentice of the Year for NSW.
During her seven years in the kitchen, Bonnie said she had a flair for butchery and scored her highest cookery test results in that department, so it was a natural transition from the stove to the butcher’s block.
“Having the previous knife skills and cooking knowledge helped me tremendously when making the switch,” Bonnie told The Beast.
“Going from one male-dominated industry to another wasn’t that much of a jump. I didn’t feel out of place, but I had to prove to myself that I was able to do it.”
“My skills were hand-in-hand perfect to begin a career in butchery. After I completed my three-month trial, I eagerly signed the apprenticeship papers.”
The Apprentice of the Year competition was a full-day event held at Granville TAFE and Bonnie was one of 16 top apprentices from NSW, comprising six young women and ten men.
“Our criteria was very strict. They expected excellence within a tight time limit,” she said.
“My TAFE teacher John and (Lucas) store manager Chris really helped me refine my skills for the competition.”
“We had to complete a two-hour mystery-box challenge, a theory test and another two-hour practical test. It was all marked and assessed by industry professionals and judges.”
“I am very proud of winning first place, I feel like it’s an amazing way to start out my career as a qualified butcher holding that title.”
Bonnie grew up with the smell of blood and bone. Both of her parents worked in the meat industry and her father still works as a butcher on the Central Coast.
“From the age of five I took a real interest in my dad’s work,” she explained.
“One of my favourite memories as a child was visiting his workplaces. I would insist on seeing the full bodies of animals in the cool rooms.”
“I’m yet to work a full day in a shop with my dad. Maybe one day we can have a little competition between ourselves. It’s definitely brought us closer together having the same career.”
She said the boys at Lucas Meats have been very supportive and she was lucky to learn some trade secrets and methods from old hands Rex and Graeme, and 30-year-old store manager Chris.
“The Lucas Meats staff are like my family, they have always taken care of me and the level of respect between us all is what I admire most,” she said.
Away from the cool room, Bonnie’s other passion is creating special-effects makeup and she has also received recognition in that field.
“I’ve had my body paint and prosthetic work published, I’ve assisted on many movie sets in the makeup department such as Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and I’ve also competed in national competitions over the past couple of years for specialised makeup,” she said.