Catch to Cuisine

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On the heels of farm-to-table comes the catch- and hunt-to-table trend, slowly sweeping the nation as foodies who love the great outdoors combine their passions. 

By Katie Kelly Bell

20130114_culinary_sea_island_life_chef_jerusalmy_broadfield_quail_0101_RetouchThe latest trend in cuisine is also the world’s oldest trend: Hunting and fishing with a purpose has more meaning than mere fad, as many culinary professionals, outdoorsmen and those who are simply enthusiastic about food are rediscovering. While “local” and “fresh” remain buzzwords, many are taking a more proactive role in sourcing their food—by going out and catching or hunting for it themselves.

From the Pacific Northwest to the South, the thrill of the hunt has captivated many for various reasons. At Sea Island, guests and members can be found exploring the world-class fishing along the quiet coastline or flushing out quail with the resort’s trained birds of prey. Hours spent fishing or hunting during the day can be an exciting part of the overall dining experience, and the resort’s expert outdoorsmen offer tips and tricks of the trade. A coterie of Sea Island’s chefs, including Executive Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy, await the bounty, filet knives in hand, to start preparing a guest’s meal—in whatever way he or she desires.

“This type of experience just takes us back to our roots, back to the days when there wasn’t a supermarket anywhere,” Jerusalmy says. “It’s so honest and refreshing.” In addition to offering guests the opportunity to have their game or fish prepared by the culinary staff, guests can also visit the new garden at Broadfield, where produce is grown organically. Jerusalmy’s new beehives and organic garden add to the fresh, local and singular experience.

Life Aquatic 

While many have found relaxation and a fun hobby in fishing for years, recent concerns about the freshness, production and sustainability of fish make fishing for oneself an attractive alternative. The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that hook-and-lines, pots and traps are more sustainable methods of fishing than large, commercial trawling and longline methods. As an added bonus, fishermen know exactly where their catch came from, and that it hasn’t been sitting in a freezer for months.

Sea Island Yacht Club Manager Michael Kennedy has fished the globe and considers Sea Island his favorite fishing spot, noting very specific reasons: “Sea Island has fewer anglers than any other [area in the] state,” he says. “The gulfstream is far offshore and most importantly, we have more saltwater marsh than anywhere in the U.S.” Georgia is home to one-third of America’s marshes, which provide nutrients for the Atlantic and attract spawning fish. “Catching [more than] 100 fish in a single trip is not uncommon,” Kennedy says. Many of these fish are released; Kennedy explains that they typically keep only what the guests will eat for one meal.

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The island’s specialists customize a two-hour guided fishing trip to suit each guest’s desired experience. It’s ideal for children and first-time anglers, and includes fishing basics along with some bird-watching and dolphin sightings. For some, the excursion includes off- and near-shore expeditions for tarpon, barracuda, black sea bass, snapper, cobia and mackerel. “To date, our record is one person catching 12 different species of fish in a single outing,” Kennedy notes. He says the abundance is consistent year-round, with late summer often yielding 100- to 200-pound tarpon and 50-pound bull redfish.

Land Before (Dinner) Time

For those on dry land, there is a multitude of options for a fresh catch. Jesse Griffiths is owner and chef of Dai Due Butcher Shop and Dai Due Supper Club in Austin, Texas, and author of the book, “Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game.” As a proponent of the hunt-to-table trend, Griffiths believes it all has to do with connection: “We’ve been hunting for our meals for centuries, but today’s hunter is far more interested in a sense of connection,” he explains. “People are curious about where their food comes from, and to be in charge of the process from beginning to end is meaningful.”

This connection is a prominent part of hunting at Broadfield Sporting Club, just 40 minutes from Sea Island. A verdant habitat, dense with game and home to more than 5,000 acres of premium, ultra-private hunting grounds, the preserve’s ample oak hammocks make inviting habitats for quail and deer. Guests can sign up for a full or half-day quail hunt or pheasant shoot, or make arrangements for Broadfield’s extraordinary falconry experience.

“Many enjoy hunting with the raptors  because you participate with the bird and no guns are used,” says Jon Kent, director of outdoor pursuits and a falconer himself. Hunters assist the hawk by flushing out prey on the ground. A typical hunt includes squirrels, pheasant and quail. The diverse range of birds of prey to choose from, including peregrine falcon, harris hawk and goshawk, offers an extraordinarily unique opportunity. There’s not much that can beat the thrill of being an eyewitness to a peregrine falcon attempting to take a pheasant at 250 miles per hour. The finale is impressive too. At the end of the hunt, the bird is called down and guests are invited to wear the glove and offer their arm for the bird as a perch, allowing for a breathtakingly intimate moment with one of nature’s most regal hunters.

Quail hunters will enjoy an afternoon with the resort’s popular bird dogs and the opportunity to be squired through the brush in the custom bird buggy. Expert and novice hunters alike enjoy the buggy’s elevated perch for ideal viewing. “Basic shotgun skills are all you need to sign up. Take a few sessions at our shooting school to fine-tune your skills if you prefer,” Kent suggests.

Challenging, high-flying rapid action defines the pheasant shoot experience. Hunters should come prepared to hustle as the guides lead them through a series of 10 blinds. Releasing 200 birds keeps things fast and furious. “It’s wild live action, and at the end, most everyone signs up to do it again,” Kent says.

From Hook to Haute Cuisine 

The increased connection of diner to food, and the exciting experiences of fishing and hunting, are piquing the interest of more and more people across the country. Damien Nurre, owner of Deep Canyon Outfitters in Bend, Ore., explains that he’s seeing more new men and women anglers and hunters, even from non-rural areas. “We are getting more sophisticated urban hunters who don’t necessarily have a family history of hunting and fishing,” he notes. “They are keenly interested in the experience of being outdoors with the hunting dogs, harvesting the bird and preparing it for dinner.”

In fact, Nurre spends a great deal of time sharing his cooking and preparation techniques with clients. “It’s the one question we always get asked,” he says.

Fishermen and hunters at Sea Island can participate in the “table” portion of hunt-to-table by enjoying some rest and downtime while chef Jerusalmy transforms their bounty into a culinary delight. Jerusalmy is one of only 350 French Master Chefs in the world. Having earned his stripes in kitchens across the globe, he has spent time studying under Master Chef of France Paul Bocuse and chef Gerard Boyer. Jerusalmy’s lively flavor combinations pull from seasonal influences. A quail harvested by a guest might get the bacon treatment, wrapped and cooked over an open fire and finished with warm pickled vegetables laced with Broadfield honey vinaigrette, cornbread croutons and foie gras emulsion.

Jerusalmy suggests enjoying trout, bass or flounder three ways: beer-battered with old fashioned mustard aioli, blackened with pickled Broadfield radishes and okra, or fried with a made-from-scratch barbecue sauce. The thrill of the hunt becomes the thrill of the kitchen, Jerusalmy says. “I relish working with guests on creating a dish that pleases them, especially when we are talking about something so local and fresh that they just caught or hunted. It’s even more exciting to get them engaged in what’s growing locally on our property and including that in the final dish.”

In a time when most people never know where their food comes from, a growing group of adventurers are taking food back to its roots. With the recent explosion of the farm-to-table movement, the interest in catch-to-cuisine is a natural progression, and whether people are hungry for a novel outdoor experience, a fun family outing or just want to enjoy the freshest possible dinner, there are plenty of reasons that this trend will continue to grow. m

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