They make the cut: Texas Roadhouse Philippines’ Joel Herher (right) with 2020 Texas Roadhouse International Meat Cutter Challenge champion Alfredo Danao of Texas Roadhouse Middle East during the meat cutter competition held recently in Taipei, Taiwan.
Why hand-cut steaks are the best
OOH LA LAI - Lai S. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - February 6, 2020 - 12:00am

While most restaurants put the spotlight on their celebrity chefs, this steakhouse takes pride in having the best meat cutter: one who chops through bones and slices off tendons until the cattle is reduced to individual cuts of meat by hand.

Sirloin steak with fries

At Texas Roadhouse, steaks are legendary because of the meticulously defined hand-cut steaks that are grilled to perfection according to guests’ preferences.

“We cut our steaks not by machine but by hand to maintain the quality of our steaks,” enthused Cyril Reyes, director for operations, Texas Roadhouse. “Machine-cut meat loses some of its moisture due to friction. Less friction means juicier steaks.”

For over 12 years now, Joel Herher takes the dying art of butchering to heart, a skill that has afforded him and his family a comfortable life and brought him places.

“I started my meat-cutting career at a local meat shop in the metro in 2008. I had zero experience then but I learned the ropes fast because I was determined to make the cut,” recalled Joel.

Texas Roadhouse hand-cut ribeye with baked potato

He also spent five years in Qatar as a butcher for a big catering company before returning to the Philippines to be with his growing family for good. In 2017, Herher joined the Bistro Group and brought his expertise to Texas Roadhouse, home of the legendary US-grade hand-cut steaks, where he works as a meat-cutter.

A great steak starts with a good meat grab and the perfect cut. That’s the reason why a meat-cutter has one of the most vital jobs in the steak market.

“We have a cut-across-the-grain technique to maintain just the right marbling so the restaurant can serve the tastiest, most succulent steaks,” Herher explained.

Indeed, it takes exemplary skill and meticulousness to handle and prepare hand-cut steaks that speak of the best quality and flavor.

The length, width and cut of steak can affect the texture, flavor and juiciness of the meat.

Texas Roadhouse general manager Jay Balancio is flanked by meat cutters Lorenz Galicha and Joel Herher.

At Texas Roadhouse, the meat undergoes tender loving care.

“Here, we do the meat cutting in a room with controlled temperature,” noted Herher. “We also adhere to strict guidelines in meat-cutting. The steak knife that we use doubles as a ruler just so we can get the measurements right. We have to get the exact width and length of a particular steak cut,” said the shy butcher.

Steak specs are difficult because one must cut everything at precise measurements. Ribeye should be portioned as 10 oz., 12 oz., and 16 oz., while the bone-in cuts are pegged at 22 oz. Sirloins should either be at 6 oz., 8 oz. or 11 oz. The thickness of the steak matters, too. For example, the length of a 10 oz. ribeye should be seven to 7.5 centimeters, while the width should be three to 3.5 inches.

“If you don’t get it right, the texture and the juiciness of the steak will suffer,” added Herher.

It takes 15 minutes to grill a 10 oz. ribeye. So if you cut the meat thicker or thinner than what’s specified, the cooking time will be different. Ergo, you might overcook or undercook the steak.

He makes the cut

Over a decade ago, Texas Roadhouse USA held the annual Meat Cutting Challenge. Local competitions in each country — where the steakhouse operates — are held to determine the winner who will then compete in the regional championship. Champion butchers then advance to the international cut-off for a chance to win the grand prize of US$20,000 and the coveted “Meat Cutter of the Year” award.

Joel Herher, the 37-year-old skilled butcher, represented the country at the first Regional Meat Cutter Challenge in Taipei, Taiwan.

“It was quite an experience,” Herher said. “The competition was held in a skating rink so it was really cold.”

Each participant received about 40 pounds of beef to cut — sirloin, filet and ribeye. Within an hour in a chilly 35°C arena, the butchers cut the meat into as many steaks as possible.

“The name of the game is to get the highest yield. Whoever yields the most steaks with the highest quality cut in the least amount of time and the least wastage wins,” said Reyes. “Of course, the contestants were also judged on the quality and precision of all the steaks in terms of length, width and height.”

While the Meat Cutter of the Year Award went to his kababayan Alfredo Danao of Texas Roadhouse Middle East, Herher was thankful for the experience and the chance to make the country and his co-workers proud.

“Texas Roadhouse international director for operations told us that the restaurant’s meat-cutters are the most important workers of the company,” Herher enthused. “That felt good. I now have a special regard for myself, my fellow butchers here, and the vital role we play at Texas Roadhouse. I need to focus and always try to give all our customers the perfect cut.”

So the next time you order the legendary steaks at Texas Roadhouse, you’ll know they were perfectly cut — fresh that morning — by the best meat-cutters in the world.

“It’s not only our job. It’s our passion, our way of life,” enthused Herher.

* * *

Texas Roadhouse branches are located at Uptown Mall, BGC; Conrad S Maison; Robinsons Manila; Evia Lifestyle Center; and Greenbelt 5.

Follow Texas Roadhouse on FB and IG at texasroadhouseph.

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