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Survivor’s Colby Donaldson will host a brand-new reality competition: The Butcher

Survivor’s Colby Donaldson will host a brand-new reality competition: The Butcher
Colby Donaldson, host of The Butcher (Photo by Maggie Shannon/History)

It’s been six years since the History Channel competition Top Shot went off the air, but its host, Colby Donaldson of Survivor fame, is back with a new competition series: The Butcher, which is, yes, a competition between people who chop up meat.

Unlike Top Shot, which took place outside and had one cast for the entire season, The Butcher is a studio-based competition with a new cast each week.

The format seems to be borrowing from Chopped, as so many series have now done, including History’s own Forged in Fire: Each episode has four contestants, three challenges, one winner.

And on The Butcher, there’s also “mystery meat”: alligators, ostriches, and other dead things hanging on hooks, ready to be artfully chopped into pieces.

Watch the trailer:

There are three judges: chef Roxanne Spruance; David “Dave the Butcher” Budworth; and Michael “Sully”/“The Reverend” Sullivan.

The show will air Wednesdays at 10 starting May 22.

It’s produced by Railsplitter Pictures, the same company that produces History hits The Curse of Oak Island and Forged In Fire, which is basically Chopped for weapon-creation. The show was first announced last fall as “American Butcher.”

Here’s the network’s full description of the series:

“Throughout history, the skilled craft of the butcher has been essential to human survival.  In early civilizations when foodborne diseases were claiming lives, it was the butcher with their precise tools and keen skills who warded off death. This vital craftsman became a fixture in every town across America.  Today, there are thousands of people who continue this noble tradition but only a select few with the right expertise can be considered a ‘Master Butcher.’ Now, for the first time comes an extreme, high-stakes competition where best-in-class butchers battle in a showdown designed to put their knowledge, strategy and technique to the ultimate test.  With their sharp knives and even sharper skills, these butchers carve their way through painstaking challenges, use their expert talent to adapt to historical twists, and reveal the fascinating secrets of the butcher’s world.”

The Butcher’s host and judges

Colby’s hosting was one of the highlights of Top Shot, a show that continually surprised me, in part by evolving into an entirely skill-based competition.

Also read: My 2010 interview with Colby about what he learned from, and heard from, Survivor host Jeff Probst

Colby’s bio from the History Channel doesn’t specifically mention his previous hosting experience, but does pitch him as someone familiar with hunting and “grilling and smoking meats”:

“Born and raised in rural West Texas, Colby Donaldson has a professional background as diverse as the life experiences that have guided him throughout.

A trained welder and metal fabricator, Donaldson owned and operated a performance auto restoration business before becoming the record-breaking runner-up on CBS’ hit television show Survivor: The Australian Outback. That experience began a successful career in the film and television industry. 

Being the 4th generation of a Texas cattle ranching family and personally having over twenty years of experience in range and wildlife habitat management play a large roll in Donaldson’s profession as a licensed Ranch & Land Realtor. Donaldson’s passion for the outdoors began when he started hunting with his father and grandfather at a young age. It was always about harvesting only what was to be eaten and the adventure didn’t end until the meat was on the grill. Drawing from his elder generations’ knowledge of grilling and smoking meats and sharing the same passion for outdoor cooking, Donaldson has been living the ‘ranch-to-table’ lifestyle long before it became a hip trend. 

A graduate from Texas Tech University with a degree in Business Marketing, Donaldson is married with a 9-year old daughter and proudly calls Austin, TX home.”

Here are bios for the judges, via the History Channel:

Roxanne Spruance

Chef Roxanne Spruance is a critically acclaimed chef in New York city where she is known for creating innovative, seasonal food, while respecting and incorporating regional traditions. Chef Spruance entered the culinary world as a pastry chef apprentice in the highly regarded restaurant, Blackbird in Downtown Chicago. Working her way up in the Chicago restaurant industry, Spruance gained valuable knowledge and experience in all aspects of the kitchen.

Chef Spruance’s love of cuisine began at a young age via her parents. Avid supporters of Chicago’s original farmers markets, independent butchers and fish mongers, her parents set the tone for how she would continue to source ingredients throughout her professional career. Growing up in an active, outdoors family, Chef Spruance became an avid hunter, fisher, and backpacker early on in life. 

While recruited to play field hockey at Michigan State University, she received two degrees – a B.S. in Environmental Biology/Zoology and a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife. In 2010, Chef Spruance landed a coveted spot as Chef de Partie under world-renowned chef Wylie Dufresne at New York’s WD~50, where she took full advantage of the opportunity to absorb invaluable modern techniques into her repertoire and to explore and experiment with flavor profiles and menu creation. Her tenure at WD~50 was followed by a Sous Chef position at Blue Hill at Stone Barns under the guidance of Dan Barber, where the daily exposure to fresh and local ingredients reinforced her passion to continue to support that cause in her cooking today. She followed Blue Hill by consulting and opening New York’s Café Tallulah. Chef Spruance joined Alison Eighteen as Executive Chef in April 2013. It was here that she began to be known for her creative use of local ingredients and whole animal butchery while utilizing a wide range of techniques. She received the coveted ‘Snail of Approval’ certification awarded by Slow Food New York for chefs who have sustainably driven kitchens. Believing that the best food comes from fresh, seasonal products, Chef Spruance is passionate about purchasing from local farmers.

Following this ethos, Chef Roxanne Spruance opened her own restaurant, Kingsley, in the winter of 2015/2016 to rave reviews. Kingsley was named Zagat’s ‘Best New Restaurant’ and ‘Best American Restaurant’ in 2016. It has been Michelin Recommended since opening and also has been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the wine list, designed by Chef Spruance.

Chef Spruance has been a featured chef at the James Beard House, and events such as Taste of T, New York Taste, and the New York City Wine and Food Festival. She also won ‘Chopped’ on The Food Network, which featured bacon as a main ingredient and showcased her skills and depth of techniques under pressure. She was also named in Crain’s 40 Under 40 class of 2017. A frequent contributor on the Today Show, Chef Spruance is always thrilled to share her tips and recipes on live TV.

Growing up an athlete in Chicago, Chef Spruance has taken her fearless, winning attitude toward sports and translated it into a fearless attitude towards food. She’s unafraid to experiment with different genres and ingredients and believes in creating a culinary product that is stimulating while never losing respect for the product. Chef Spruance is thrilled to bring this vision and passion to her cuisine daily.”

Dave Budworth

“David Budworth AKA ‘Dave the Butcher’ started his career in 1989 at the venerable Ashbury Market in San Francisco. He found an absolute fascination with how the old butchers took a whole carcass down to retail cuts and seeing the words ‘Edible Feet’ on a chicken box spawned a 30-year career.

Later he landed in the outback of Northern Australia where he worked picking fruit on a squash farm. In addition, he’s had a handful of adventures traveling around the world and working under San Francisco Bay Area butcher masters.

Budworth prides himself on being a bridge between the old masters he learned from and the new generation of passionate young butchers
When he isn’t teaching or traveling, you can find Budworth running the shop at Marina Meats in San Francisco. He is still using the knives his great grandfather brought from Germany as a young butcher in 1880 as well as teaching whole lamb butchery classes at San Francisco Cooking School. Dave is a veritable wealth of facts, recipes and butcher lore.”

Michael Sullivan

“Anyone who knows Michael Sullivan knows he’s had a lifelong passion for butchery, culinary arts and charcuterie. Known to friends as ‘Sully’ or ‘The Reverend,’ Sullivan is a graduate of Culinary Institute of America and spent time at various chef and butcher positions before landing at Blackberry Farm as Butcher and Charcutier for a decade, where he could indulge his deep-rooted love of all things cutting and curing. While at Blackberry Farm, Sullivan began working at Cochon 555 and spent five years on the road with the tour, working with chefs, butchers and farmers across the country. 

In 2015, he decided to take his career in a new direction and became Regional Sales Manager with Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to better educate individuals about beef and how-to better utilize it. During that time, like an old-fashioned circuit preacher, he launched “Cure Camp” which helps spread knowledge to chefs and butchers about the art of seam-butchery and charcuterie. Currently Sullivan has launched is latest venture called ‘American Butcher’ focusing on producing meats, sausages, and charcuterie products.

Outside of growing ‘American Butcher’ he loves supporting specialty food events such as L5 Foundation (caring for the recovery of cancer patients), James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour, and various Food and Wine events. The most important support that powers his passion is his wife of 24 years and his two amazing children.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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