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Q&A: Anselmo Perez

The award-winning ham slicer from Spain, who will be demonstrating his skills until Saturday at the Hotel Icon in Tsim Sha Tsui, describes why it is more than just a job

 

How did you become a ham slicer? "I've loved ham since I was a boy. I started cutting it when I was 13 years old and then went on to study the craft. I didn't have a whole leg of ham at home because it's expensive but my friends let me cut theirs. When you have a passion, you learn and improve. I've earned 28 awards as a ham slicer but there was a turning point in my career, when I entered a contest for the best ham slicer title in Spain, in 2008. In the first contest I attended, I won a prize. My career skyrocketed. That was great encouragement for me."

How did you learn the craft? "I'm self-taught. I created my own style and now many people are working for me and following my style. A good ham slicer has to bring the taste alive - it's the most difficult part, but also the key to ham slicing. A good ham slicer makes a bad ham good; a bad slicer makes a good ham bad.

"First, there is the cleaning off of the inedible part of the ham, so it doesn't affect the taste of the meat inside. You have to know how to slice a particular size, form and thinness that is appropriate. There should be the right proportion of fat and meat. You have to understand the fibre of the ham - just like a carpenter knows in which direction he has to cut his wood. It's both from intuition and knowledge of ham."

How is your style different from others? "The final presentation is important. My ham will always keep this horizontal plane for most of the time when I'm cutting it. I've created my own style of presentation - my slices are all pointed like an arrow. I insist that a good slicer must have a good cultural understanding of ham. It's not just a job."

Why is jamon (the back leg) more expensive than paleta (the front leg)? "If you close your eyes, the flavour and quality will be so close, almost the same. But their size and appearance are different. I've cut a lot more paleta in my life, partly because it's cheaper. There's a perception that jamon is better than paleta. But no, it's the same. Paleta is more difficult to cut because it's thinner and the bone is stronger."

What do you like to pair your ham with? "I like it with a slice of bread with tomato and olive oil, that's it. But you can pair it with many things. In Spain we also match it with melon or pineapple."

Vanessa Yung

 

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Q&A: Anselmo Perez

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