Meat our team – say hello to Leah Fraser!
Meet our apprentice Leah, who is currently featuring in a national media campaign!
Jo – Marketing Co-ordinator at Cranstons, recently had a chat with Leah Fraser in the office above the traditional butcher’s shop on King Street, Penrith.
Leah was born and raised in Salford, a far cry from the rolling Cumbrian hills and auction marts. Despite being raised in the city, she enjoys the close-knit community she has found here, and the opportunities she has discovered. After a flurry of hospitality jobs, she found her calling in the Cranstons apprenticeship scheme, and has recently achieved her Level 2 Apprentice in Butchery qualification.
What brought you here?
I originally came to Penrith in 2017 to complete my Level 3 Agricultural Engineering at Newton Rigg. I also have a level 1 Motor Vehicle qualification from Carlisle college, and now a Level 2 Butchery. Nothing has captivated me quite the same as butchery though, there’s something about going back to the start of the process and learning a craft that will be with me for life. I love to learn new things every day, and there is always something to learn here at Cranstons, whether it’s different ways to cut the same muscles, or different names for the same cut of meat, I aim to learn them all.
How does butchery compare with your job history?
I’ve worked a lot in Fast Food, at most of the big-name brands, and it was always hectic. It was less about learning a skill, and more about making it to the end of the shift. I didn’t feel it was benefiting me in any other way than a wage. Butchery keeps my hands and brain busy every day.
How did you find out about the apprenticeship?
I saw a news article about how butchery was a ‘dying trade’, and how there were apprenticeships available, to try and involve young people, and pass it onto the next generation. I knew of Cranstons from living in Penrith, and I popped into Penrith King Street to chat with Robert, the manager, about it. The rest is history!
What about the apprenticeship has worked for you?
Being able to learn a skill while learning a wage is invaluable, especially now with the cost-of-living crisis. I’ve not only completed my Level 2, but since starting here I’ve become engaged, bought a house and I’m now planning my wedding!
You were recently featured in the Department of Education’s Apprenticeship Week campaign, how was that?
I really enjoyed working with Lee, he made it fun and I felt relaxed talking in front of the camera. Showcasing my skills and talking about something I’m passionate about was great; I was in my element. With Cranstons, they really want you to be the best you can be, to harness your skill. They also use all local produce, and pride themselves on having the best quality out there, so it was easy to talk about. I hope it inspires other people, and makes them realise there’s alternatives to going to college or just getting a job.
Would you recommend a butchery apprenticeship to other people?
Yes, and I have! The security of knowing I have a trade behind me, that I can use throughout my life, and skills I will never forget, money can’t buy that.
You work and train at the Cumbrian Food Hall in Penrith, but you’re also the only butcher at Penrith King Street some days. How is that, and which do you prefer?
I think it’s helped me immensely. Relying on my own skill to maintain the counter, and to judge prep levels needed. I have to think on my feet and use my own judgement, which is one of the most useful skills as a butcher, and something you only learn with time.
I love working at the big Food Hall and continuing to learn new things, but I prefer working at King Street. I like the traditional shop vibe, you’re handling each customer’s whole shop so you can spend longer with every person, building a rapport.
What was the first thing you learned about butchery, and do you still use it today?
Well, considering the first thing I learned was knife handling, I’d say yes, I definitely still use it every day! You start learning the basics, how to carry, wash and use knives properly, as well as other health and safety, and food safety. Keep it clean, keep it safe and only cut the meat on the table! Honestly, these skills are the most important ones you can learn, and they’re implemented strictly at Cranstons… thank goodness!
You’ve worked closely with mentors, both inside and outside of the company. Can you tell me a bit about that?
My main mentors at Cranstons are Dave Dobson and Connor Carrick. They’ve both been a huge help to me, they are always there to answer questions and advise me when I’m working. They never run out of skill or efficiency suggestions, and I owe a lot of what I’ve learned to them.
We also have an external mentor from Meat Ipswich, his name is Kevin and he’s great. He’s not here all the time, so it’s nice for him to see my progress on each of his visits, and he’s so passionate about the craft. I really enjoy working with like-minded people who just want to be the best they can be, and help others achieve the same. I went on an excursion to an abattoir with Meat Ipswich and it was so informative, definitely contributed to my knowledge.
You sound very motivated, what pushes you? And where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My fiancé, Kou, is my main motivation. Anything I can do to better myself and improve our life together, to make us both as happy as possible. I would like to get my Level 3 qualification next, and become a butchery supervisor like my mentor Connor. Maybe one day I could have my own shop and encourage other people to follow in my footsteps. Mostly though, I want to become a Master Butcher at Cranstons. The level of skill needed is something I really aspire to, and work towards every day.
Last one of the big questions, do you have any advice for the younger generation?
If you’re unsure about what you want to do, or you’re not sure of what skills you have, get yourself into an apprenticeship or a T level. You can work out what you want to do while you’re getting a trade behind you. These skills last for life, no matter where you go. Being in work is the only thing to prepare you for work.
Okay, now onto the quickfire questions.
Best Halloween Costume?
Fallout 4 – Vault Dweller
Erasure – A little respect. It’s my favourite song in general.
What was your first car? And did you name it?
I had a Vauxhall Corsa called Kody.
Most embarrassing fashion trend you rocked?
Jeans and a skirt… or maybe the tribal tiger shirts.
Weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
I have two. Swordfish steak – which was really nice. And baby octopus, which was nice but it threw me off a little as you can feel the suckers on your teeth.
What are you best at cooking?
Chilli – I make the World’s Greatest Chilli; it takes 8 hours!
Favourite tree or flower?
I love Giant Sequoia trees
Favourite Cranstons product?
Again, I have 2. On the raw side; ‘Chicken, Cheddar and Chilli Jam Wellington’. The flavours are incredible, the chilli jam has a fantastic sweet contrast to the rest of the product.
On the cooked side, I am an absolute fiend for the ‘Roast Chicken Baguette’ from the hot counter. It’s on every three weeks, so I make the most of the week it runs! I especially love the crispiness of the skin and the juiciness of the meat. My mouth is watering already!