A Macon butcher aims to prove he's a cut above the rest next month when he travels to Florida to showcase his skills in a national meat-cutting competition.
Hector Avila, 23, cuts steaks for a living at Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Macon. On March 8, he will compete against 106 of the restaurant chain's professional meat cutters. They all will be vying for a win, which includes a $20,000 cash prize in Orlando, Florida, according to a news release from the company.
The butchers will be tasked with cutting a sirloin butt, a tenderloin and ribeye, said Avila, a Rutland High School graduate who has been working in restaurants since he was 15.
"Out of all three, you have to get as many cuts as possible but also the best quality," Avila said. "(Butchering meat) is not one of those things where you can just go in like, 'Hey, you know, I can do that.' It takes quite some time to practice. ... But it's fun, I like it."
Avila placed third in a November regional competition in Birmingham, Alabama. He is one of three butchers from Georgia to make the cut for the national contest next month.
"There's really an art to what he does," said Matthew Lane, managing partner at the Texas Roadhouse off Riverside Drive. "He starts with this bulk meat. ... He has to take what he's given, clean it, cut it down to our specs every single day. ... There's a process to it, and it's very time-consuming. It's hard work."
The cost of the meat that Avila butchers makes up about 25 percent of the total cost of operating the restaurant, making his job a "really important position," Lane said.
"Everything is built off of yields, so it's very technical how they get a certain amount of steak," Lane said. "You don't want waste."
Every day, Avila spends between eight and 12 hours cutting between 200 and 700 pounds of meat. He said he isn't doing anything special to prepare for the competition.
"Every day that I'm in here, I'm practicing," Avila said, adding that he spends time with his 20-month-old daughter when he's not working.
The winner of the competition will have bragging rights as the Texas Roadhouse Meat Cutter of the Year in addition to the cash prize. Avila said he's proud to work for a company that "actually pays someone to hand-cut their steaks."
"Most of these restaurants around here, they get their meat in and they're frozen, pre-packaged, sealed (and) already pre-cut," Avila said. With a hand-cut steak, "you get a way better quality, a way better steak. It's still a craft, and it's still an art they invest in."
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 or follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.