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Joliet butcher heads to national meat-cutting competition

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:37PM

If there was an Academy Award for meat cutting, Roman Puchera would have a nomination.

The Joliet butcher is one of 87 professional meat cutters from around the country who advanced to the semi-finals of the 2014 National Meat Cutting Challenge on Feb. 25 in Kissimmee, Fla.

“It was my first time [competing], so I was just trying to do my best,” said the 23-year-old about winning the regional competition. “I was really happy to win and excited. I’ve never been to Florida before.”

During the 60-minute showdown, each participant receives 30 to 40 pounds of beef to cut. After being judged on quality of cut, yield and speed, the top eight finishers advance to the finals in April, where the winner will earn $20,000 and the Meat Cutter of the Year title.

Originally hired as a dishwasher by Texas Roadhouse last year, Puchera took on the role of meat cutter just four months ago.

“In such a short time he has come such a long way,” said Rachael Ogden, managing partner of Texas Roadhouse in Joliet.

He practices a couple times a week with one of the restaurant’s other employees. The company’s Illinois product coach also comes out weekly to help Puchera hone his skill at cutting a variety of steaks.

— Jane Donahue, for Sun-Times Media

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