A cut above the rest: Highlands Ranch host butchers' competition


Nearly 30 butchers from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico gathered in Highlands Ranch for a chance to win $20,000 in the annual Slice on Ice Qualifier Competition, hosted by the Texas Roadhouse steakhouse chain.

The ice rink at the new South Suburban Sports Complex was turned into a makeshift meat locker on Oct. 4, as competitors were given a total of 40 pounds of beef to carve up during a one-hour competition.

Stephanie Keck, a Texas Roadhouse marketing coach, said it is exciting to get back to hosting the competitions in the area, given they were canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

Keck said the Oct. 4 event in Highlands Ranch was a qualifier competition, which means the winner not only receives $20,000 but also earns to the right to go on and compete in the semi-finals. Winners of the semi-final events go on to compete in the 2021 national competition where the winner is crowned Meat Cutter of the Year.

The semi-finals and national competition will be held in Nashville in February.

“At Texas Roadhouse, our professional butchers hand-cut every steak in each restaurant,” said Mike Castaneda, Texas Roadhouse senior product coach. “Our meat-cutting challenge recognizes the significant contributions of our talented butchers and we’re proud to reward and honor these individuals through this national competition.”

With judges constantly watching through the hour, Clint Hacker, the competition emcee, said competitors are judged on width of the cuts of sirloin, filet and ribeye. They are also judged on muscle-to-gristle ratio, marbling and technique, Hacker said.

Mark Gurger said he drove from Albuqurque to compete in the 2021 competition. While he measured the fat down the center of a cut of meat in preparation of the official start time, Gurger said he has competed several times because “it is really a lot of fun.”

Zuriel Rubio, a native of Mexico, said he currently works in a restaurant in Wyoming. He said he was excited to come to the Highlands Ranch competition, noting this is his sixth time competing in the Slice on Ice challenge.

“I come every year because it is not just about a competition,” Rubio said. “I get to see other techniques and learn from others. I think that is the best part.”

Texas Roadhouse officials said it is important to host the competition and constantly encourage consistency among meat cutters. In an average year, Texas Roadhouse butchers cut about $1 million worth of meat and spend between seven and eight hours per day cutting meat in a 35-degree walk-in cooler.

The National Meat Cutting Challenge is part of Texas Roadhouse’s Meat Hero Program, which was created in 2001 to recognize daily efforts of the company’s meat cutters, who hand-cut each steak served at each restaurant.

Since the first Texas Roadhouse opened in 1993, the chain has grown to more than 580 locations in 49 states, including several in metro Denver, and 22 locations in nine foreign countries.


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