WHEN Elsie Yardley tells people about her choice of career, she often gets some strange reactions.

But any second thoughts have long disappeared after the 22-year-old became the only woman to be shortlisted as 2017’s Premier Young Butcher of the Year.

Elsie was a keen cook as a youth and what started as a Saturday job has led to a career at Hards of Halstead on the High Street.

She said: “I started just doing Saturdays and Tuesdays at a butchers in Braintree and then one in Cressing.

“I like cooking, I always have, and this job has become more about cooking than ever.

“I do really enjoy it but occasionally get quite a strange reaction.

“You can see it on customers’ faces sometimes, and my friends were quite shocked when I first told them, but have been really supportive.

“I think it is worse with my boyfriend’s friends, they always look very confused when I say I am a butcher.”

Last year, Elsie was shortlisted for the first time while working at Priors Hall Farm in Dunmow, but was not ready.

She said: “I joined Nick here in July, and made it clear when I joined that I wanted him to train me up, and give me the skills to do well on the day.

“I am quite frightened, and was even more scared last year, it is a huge exhibition and there is quite a lot of pressure.

“Nick has been fantastic.

“He really has passed on all his knowledge, and it is a huge boost working in a traditional High Street butchers like this.

“The customers are all hugely supportive, and give me some great feedback as well which I normally wouldn’t get.”

Elsie, of London Road, Braintree, will be pitted against the other seven finalists in several different categories during a day-long exhibition in April.

Owner Nick Hard admitted few youngsters saw much appeal in a career as a butcher.

But he said he was enjoying the opportunity to pass on the benefits of his knowledge, and admitted Elsie’s new ideas were helping the business too.

Mr Hard said: “We are all exceptionally proud of Elsie.

“She has worked really hard for this and completely deserves it.

“And it is really boosting our business too.

“Where Elsie is trying all these different things, we are then able to sell them and they are proving very popular with customers.”