It’s been an injury-plagued 18 months for Rob Buchanan but the experienced Harlequins hooker has not let his rehab get in the way of his ambition to become a butcher. The 27-year-old, who has more than 100 Quins appearances to his name, has been working at The Meat Room in Twickenham in an effort to make the most of his time away from the game.
How have you found the experience so far?
I have loved it. It has provided me with something that is completely different to what I am used to and because we are always so busy in the shop it enables me to take my mind off my injury. It’s been loads of fun and been a great break from the day to day routine of a rugby player.
Why did you choose butchery?
There’s no hiding I am a massive foodie. I love all things food, so butchery seemed the perfect fit. Being out with a long-term injury is tough and I got to the stage where I needed to find an alternative interest, something that could distract me and give me a new inspiration. I had a great chat with my girlfriend and she suggested I should try butchery. I had experienced some butchery work in the past with Sainsbury’s and I remember it had really caught my interest.
How did you form the connection with The Meat Room?
My good mate and fellow Quin Will Collier put me in contact with The Meat Room manager, John Toy. They have a mutual connection and Will explained to me that John had just opened the shop in Twickenham and might be looking for some help. It was great timing for me because I had been looking online for a butchery apprenticeship and wasn’t having much luck. From there I organised a time to chat to John and ask about the possibility of doing some work in the shop. John loved the idea and invited me down to learn the ropes and give them a hand. It was a lucky coincidence and one that has really paid off.
How many days of the week do you work?
I aim to work most days, it just depends on my rehab schedule and when I am required at Harlequins. I find being in the shop full-time gives me the opportunity to watch and learn from the other butchers, try and replicate what they are doing and then work on improving my skills. The shop has a great environment, we’re constantly busy and there is plenty of good banter flying around to keep you entertained.
What does your butchery training involve?
A huge aspect of my training is focused on learning from the other butchers and then implementing the skills I have been shown. The guys here are all exceptional butchers and it’s a privilege to learn from them. Our most experienced butcher has been in the industry for 35 years and has been a great teacher for me. He was taught the art of butchery by his Dad at the age of eight, so he knows everything you need to know about meat.
How long would it take you to be fully qualified?
To feel completely confident as a butcher it would take 18 months. I feel with my experience, I have been given the best opportunity to succeed and that’s due to be outstanding support I have been given by the other butchers. They have allowed me to just crack on with the job and haven’t been scared to tell me if I am doing something wrong or if I need to improve in an area. I enjoy working under pressure and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and helping the lads wherever they need me. Even if that means heading downstairs and cleaning the dishes.
Has this experience helped you through your recovery from injury?
Absolutely. There’s no question it’s been a very difficult period for me. I haven’t played a game of rugby since October 2017 and mentally it got to the point where it started to take a big toll. Having a new interest away from my recovery has given me a huge boost and really opened my eyes to what else is out there. Butchery is a terrific craft to learn and I genuinely feel like it is something I can pursue post-rugby. I am determined more than ever to get myself fit and back out there for Quins, but in the meantime, this has been the best thing for me and something I am very grateful for.
Which meat has been your favourite to cut and prepare for sale?
The rib of beef is easily my favourite to cut. One, I love beef and two it’s the most expensive cut in the shop. I think it’s important as a butcher to take great pride in your work and even in my short time working here, it’s funny the unique things you start to feel about meat.
For more information on The Meat Room please visit: themeatroom.uk or follow them on Facebook: ‘The Meat Room’ or Instagram: @themeatroom.uk