A Meaty Affair in Hyde Park – World Steak Challenge:
Guest Post by Raphael Korber Hoffman
83 beasts of 13 breeds representing 17 countries makes for a lot of steak. The World Steak Challenge 2016, with entry numbers up 20% from last year, took place in Hyde Park on Thursday 22nd September. Judges arrived from across the globe to taste and test the greatest sirloin in the world. The competition was fierce and the top prize went, for the second year running, to Jack’s Creek, a family run ranch in New South Wales who were represented by Frank Albers of Albers GMBH. The winning steak was F2+ Wagyu beef.
As a stunning sunset ushered in autumn, 200 invited guests were treated to an evening of the world’s finest beef. On arrival, a stall run by representatives from the Japanese Wagyu Beef Export Promotion Committee presented a selection of bite sized cuts of wagyu beef.
Top marks went to the Wagyu tartar served with pink peppercorns and yuzu ponzu. The roast beef was subtly smoky and served with a spot of mustard and was juicy and tender. The ribeye was similarly soft yet had just enough resistance in the mouth and was excellently spiced.
Guests were then invited to the main tent area where a drinks reception was held and canapés were served. I eagerly eyed up the gas barbeque where a steak grilling expert prepared what he called ‘a roulette of sirloin steaks.’ It was far and away the best beef I have ever eaten and once the winning steaks were announced, guests were invited indoors to view the winners in their raw state. They lay, each on an individual white container, like artworks showing off their magnificent marbling amid the deep ruby red flesh.
I chatted to a master butcher who had been on the judging panel and asked him what the judges looked for in a fine steak. He told me that important factors included marbelling, texture, flavour and appearance. Age is also a very significant factor with the optimum age of the animal being 2 to 2 and a half years, giving a nice size cut. Some steaks can be too big, he explained. He showed me a picture of a Japanese Wagyu steak they had judged during the day which had almost more fat than meat. Apparently it’s like eating butter. He joked he needed to have his cholesterol checked after eating it earlier that day. He had been busy since early that morning engaging in two technical stages involving testing in both raw and cooked states. Yet his enthusiasm for steak tasting continued as slices of sizzling meat were passed around for guests to savour. Our dainty tasting forks belied the fact that we were getting in touch with our inner caveman.
The evening was not only an education in rearing beef herds but was a gastronomic adventure for meat lovers. It was also an opportunity for great pun making involving high steaks, misteaks and, generally, talking bull.