Francisco Trinidad Guerrero, a native and resident of La Zarza, trained as a horse trainer in Navalmoral de la Mata and, later, as a professional ham cutter after completing various courses. In between, he set up his own business in La Zarza, a grocery store with gourmet quality products, located in the Plaza de la Ermita.
When and how did you start in the world of ham cutting?
Well, I started eight years ago – when I opened the grocery store – cutting white ham in a wooden ham holder on a small counter. So I had a slight idea since we always liked to cut ham at home. In 2017, my friend José Galán encouraged me to take training with the International Ham School, where I learned the basics for a professional cut. Subsequently, I have continued training with great cutters such as Juan A. Barbero, Ramón Márquez, Arkaiz Martin, Manuel Cárdenas or the 2019 Spanish champion, Juan José Masa, among others.
What situation is the ‘profession’ of ham cutter currently in? Does it exist as such or is there a lot of intrusion?
Currently the ‘profession’ is up in the air, since there is no heading that determines it, but it is true that it will be regularized very soon thanks to the insistence of many professionals and colleagues. And yes, there is a lot of intrusion that we ‘legal’ end up paying for.
What knives, tools or utensils are essential to do your job?
In the tools section there are several types of ham holders, most of them made of high quality stainless steel in one shape or another. The correct thing is that it be rotating and tilting for comfort and safety when cutting, and that it has the correct weight so that the piece remains stationary. As for knives, I work with a very good professional cutlery shop in the sector that satisfies all types of cuts.
Many competitions are held today. Have you participated – or do you intend to – in any?
At the moment I have not considered entering contests. I talk to colleagues who show up, I go to see them compete, I encourage them, but for now I prefer to continue training and cutting a lot of hams in the store and at events.
What is the secret or secrets to cutting a ham well?
The most important thing is safety, since knives are tools that are prepared to cut thin slices. You also have to have a lot of patience and perseverance. I started from scratch and with a lot of work I am achieving goals that were unimaginable years ago.
In your opinion, what defines a good cutter?
For me, a good cutter should be clean and elegant. The cut must be straight and you must try to obtain the maximum use of the piece. Cleaning is essential since we are dealing with a product that goes directly to the mouth.
What do you think makes more difference, the quality of the ham or the quality of the cut? Because?
As a professional in the sector, I have no doubt that a well-cut ham tastes better. A good cut enhances the quality of the ham. A poorly cut Iberian acorn-fed ham does not taste the same; The same well-cut ham, with an appropriate size and thickness, allows you to feel the aroma and notice the flavor with all its nuances. It is a magical feeling that cannot be expressed in words.
What advice would you give to make a good choice when buying a ham?
To choose a good ham, the first thing is to go to a specialized store where the merchant will help you, advise you, inspire confidence in you and inform you about the qualities of the best-known world gastronomic jewel.
Any anecdote or curiosity that has happened to you throughout your career as a ham cutter?
More than an anecdote, I would like to share a very nice experience that I am having: participation in solidarity events. We voluntarily go anywhere to lend a hand and collaborate with a good cause.
Apart from cutting ham, he runs a grocery store. What encouraged you to embark on this adventure?
I was dedicated to the world of horses, working in stud farms, but the crisis was especially hard on the equine sector and caused me to lose my job. Faced with this situation, and due to the retirement of a family member, in 2014 I decided to start this business, a decision I do not regret at all.
What value does a business of this type provide compared to large stores that sell the same products?
Businesses of this type – food stores with a traditional touch – convey more trust, closeness, passion to the customer and most of the time they thank you with their visits. Many times we know the manufacturers of the products that we have available to the public.
Do you think that consumers value the difference in quality between products and therefore prices? Is the clientele willing to invest in a good product?
Of course. There is clientele for all tastes and prices. When a customer tries a product with a higher or lower price, he realizes the reason for that value.
We are going through complicated economic and social times, but since the pandemic there has been a big change in which one indulges in a “little treat” from time to time. We value the moment and the company more, and if it is with a good cheese or a good ham, even better.
Any advice for young people who want to enter the world of entrepreneurship?
I encourage people to start a business in La Zarza, who can count on the help of the Rural Revitalization Agent of the City Council. Our town is worth it.