Ardi Edgu moved to Surry Hills from Turkey when he was ten years old, in 1983. His mother had a butcher shop on the corner of Bourke and Cleveland Streets; there was never any real question of what Ardi was meant to do with his life.
By the time he’d finished high school, Ardi was already four years into his butchering apprenticeship.
“I’m one of the top butchers at the moment,” he tells me as we sit at the window of his Crown Street shop.
“In the world?” I ask.
He laughs. “I wish. But I reckon I could give them a run for their money.”
According to Ardi, there’s a lot more to being a great butcher than cutting up carcasses. He tells me there are five key elements: presentation, customer service, skill, knowledge, and perseverance.
Ardi explains: “It’s very difficult for a jet plane to break that sound barrier. Some butchers drop out; they think the work is too hard. If you can push yourself to a point where you won’t crumble, go to a point where you pass the sound barrier, that’s when you start loving what you do. Because you’re in the zone, and all that hard work becomes second nature.”
It’s clear from a quick visit that butchering is indeed second nature to Ardi. Each customer that walks in is treated like an old friend, his products are the highest quality and he is passionate about improving the customers’ skills and knowledge of meat.
Ardi pauses mid conversation with me and jumps up to the counter as a customer walks in. He looks like a picture: huge grin, hands ready atop the glass display, spotted bowtie just shy of straight.
The customer is after the ribs for lunch. They are usually a dinner special, but Ardi makes an exception.
As a butcher, Ardi says you’ve got to be skilled enough to square up and use the whole carcass; you have to sell everything, not just what’s easy.
“If you give customers the confidence and the knowledge, they take it on. That’s what butchering is about. Back in the day, butchers utilised everything. As a butcher, you’ve got to be skilled enough to use the whole animal; I find it incredibly satisfying.”
Pop in on Ardi today, 612 Crown St, Surry Hills.