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The ICE hosts meat cutting competition
A Texas Roadhouse employees show their skills in a qualifying round of the 2019 National Meat Cutting Challenge at The ICE. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

The ICE Complex on Atlanta Highway is no stranger to competition, but one contest this week might be unlike anything most spectators have seen.

On Tuesday morning, the local ice rink played host to the first qualifying round of Texas Roadhouse’s 2019 National Meat Cutting Challenge, which brought meat cutters from stores across Georgia and Alabama.

“This competition is a great motivator for our meat cutters,” Nick Bennett, managing partner with a store out of Hiram. “They are the backbone of Texas Roadhouse and without these guys, we couldn’t produce the hand-cut steaks for guests in house … We want to show them appreciation and make sure they know how much they do and how much we appreciate them.”

Holding the contest at an ice rink is a common choice, so as to not spoil the meat, but it can also be held at other temperature-controlled businesses.

“Typically, we do it at an ice rink. We do it at The Ice because it’s a great venue,” Bennett said. “Sometimes they’ll do it in another place such as a Sysco [a food distribution company] warehouse or a beer distributor company, somewhere cold where the meat stays cold.”

In the competition, meat cutters receive three cuts of beef, totaling between 25 and 30 pounds, to achieve the best cuts in the quickest time. Tuesday’s competition featured 25 cutters from 14 stores ranging from Florence, Alabama to Augusta.

“We bring in all the stores from our market to one location, and what they’ll do is cut a sirloin butt, a filet butt and a ribeye loin,” Bennett said. “What we do is measure the quality of the steaks and the amount of yield that will advance them to the next round.”

The next two rounds of the contest will take place in Orlando, where the top cutter stands to win a big prize.

“They compete with the 90 best cutters in the entire company from all of our domestic locations,” Bennett said. “From there, they’ll go through three rounds to the final round. In that final round, those cutters will go from 90 to 30 to the top 10. The top 10 will compete for the $25,000 prize.”

Bennett said while the challenge increases cutters’ skills through competition, the company also wants to give back to them.

“It’s our time to kind of bring the meat-cutters in and show them how much we appreciate them,” he said. “They have a lot on their plate. They’re cutting 600-700 pounds of meat in a 38-degree cooler, so we have them come in the day before, take them out to a nice dinner and do something fun."