24-year-old Jessica Leliuga of Ye Olde Sausage Shop in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, is our next female butcher to be profiled. Having entered the trade at a young age she has gone on to win the BPEX Young Sausage Maker Champion three years in a row, first being crowned at 14. She has also won the Dalziel Creative Young Butcher competition, beating three boys to the title, and came second in the World Skills England heats in 2016. With no shortage of awards to her name and the position of part owner of Ye Olde Sausage Shop this young butcher has come a long way already.
She never intended to become a butcher, but started in the trade on the advice of her cousin Martin who had just set up Ye Olde Sausage Shop. She had been looking for a part time job and he said “ “Don’t be delivering papers, come and work here at the weekends”. I pulled my face and said I really didn’t want to touch any of the meat and he said I could just wash up. So I went the following Saturday with my purple washing up gloves (Martin still insists on telling customers this story to this day) and set off washing up.” It wasn’t long before she got stuck in however, and that very afternoon she was linking sausage like a pro. Having taken to the trade quickly, Jessica soon ended up working full time in the family business, “When I was in my last year at school, Martin and David had mentioned me going full time there, and I was still really enjoying learning new things so hadn’t thought about further studying or applying for a different job. I left school at 16 and started full time the day after!”
Jessica’s flair for sausage making and attention to detail garnered a lot of support from her family as she started doing well in national competitions. She tried to keep it quiet at school, however, not knowing how her peers would react, “I accidentally made it into the local paper a couple of times so it didn’t stay secret for long. Then I got the nickname ‘sausage girl’ but everyone thought it was pretty cool really because it was different.” As she has worked in the same place for 11 years the regular customers are “extremely supportive. They’ve practically seen me grow up over the years.”
The drive and passion that Jessica has is undeniable, “I’d love to apply to be part of Team GB (for the World Butchers Challenge) and compete internationally representing my country against the rest of the world doing what I love to do… I never dread going to work and I don’t ever find myself watching the clock or counting down the hours until home time. I still get excited when I’ve thought up new ideas and I get giddy with excitement when I’m setting the counter up each morning.” Her close involvement with the shop means she is always driving new business ideas and marketing, having found Facebook to be a particularly successful marketing channel, “I created a Facebook page about 4 years ago and it’s such a success. We get a crazy amount of business off Facebook because social media is massive now… we try to keep up with the times to reach new people, It’s constantly gaining new followers and I thrive off it doing so well. I try and put a picture (of the counter) on our Facebook page everyday and the amount of people we get in the shop saying they’ve seen such a product on Facebook is overwhelming.” Keeping things current is important, says Jessica, “I think there’s a lot of scope for young people in the industry now, there’s a lot of young butcher competitions which are constantly looking for new entrants, it’s a prime time for young people to get involved to keep the trade as successful as possible.”
As many (female) butchers would agree, Jessica thinks women bring a certain touch to butchery, having “a little bit more attention to detail, and that stands out on the more intricate jobs… with the pretty and creative products we sell I always think women have a neater hand and always make sure they’re absolutely perfect… We have always found that girls are cleaner workers and have a little more initiative – they don’t wait for me to tell them what to do, they’ll look round for something to do rather than stand around.” Promising words for any aspiring young butchers, but females especially, as this seems to be a common opinion on women in butchery.
Jessica loves her work, and it has been good for her in return, “I’ve come out of my shell, when I first started it was months before I served on the counter or answered the phone, but now you’re lucky if anyone else answers the phone and I’ve gained a lot of confidence… It’s a very rewarding job.” We are sure that Jessica will continue to be successful in her career and you will be seeing more of her, and if you happen to be in Lancashire be sure to treat yourself to some sausages made by the best.