Recently, Rinella participated in a Q&A to discuss everything from his favorite hunting locations, organic cooking and his experiences living in New York City.
Q: Do you believe more people are accepting and exploring the ‘field to plate’ movement?
A: I think there’s more excitement about it on a popular culture level for sure. Of course, there has always been a lot of Americans who were quietly eating wild game meat without thinking of it as something extraordinary. My early hunting and fishing mentors come to mind most readily; they ate game several times a week but never thought to proselytize about it. But, now you’ve got a new crowd of far more vocal folks, the kinds of people with Twitter accounts who want as many people as possible to know what they’re up to. They give “field to plate” a sense of buzz. They put it out there and it is something new. In a per capita sense, though, I really have no idea if Americans are actually eating more game. But, they are definitely talking about it more.
Q: Where is your favorite place to hunt and why?
A: I like to hunt Alaska. I have family there and I know the place pretty well. In particular, I like to do fly-in, self-guided hunts in the nastiest backcountry I can find. That kind of stuff makes me feel very alive.
Q: How did you become such an accomplished cook of wild game?
A: I learned to cook by experimenting, reading, and hanging out with chefs who know a lot more than I do. I listed those three things in their proper order of importance. I should point out here that I’m not nearly as good with food as some guys are. I specialize in what I like to think of as caveman cuisine—rough and rustic stuff, done over fires with an eye toward historical significance — but guys like Hank Shaw and Michael Ruhlman can cook circles around me.
Q: What is your favorite wild game to prepare/consume and why?
A: That’s tough to answer, because I like just about everything. I love how surprisingly good squirrels are; I love the texture of a perfectly done mallard; I love the reliability of elk meat. The world of wild game is just too complex to be broken down into favorites. I even like some foods that I don’t actually like, simply because I enjoyed the experience of trying them for the first time. Take javelina, for instance. It’s fun just to try to make that meat taste as good as possible, which will never be great.
Q: Having lived in New York City and when you were not cooking, what were your favorite go-to restaurants?
A: This will sound funny, but I actually got burned out on restaurants in New York City. For a year or so I loved it, hitting all of these beautiful (and often expensive) restaurants. Then, the sensation started to dull and I found myself craving home cooked meals at my friends’ houses or at my own home. By far, the best meal I ever ate in New York City was at the apartment of Chef Matt Weingarten’s house. I liked it much better than eating at the restaurant he was running at that time, even though the restaurant’s food was “better” by any objective standard. But there’s huge subjectivity to food, obviously, and to me there’s a genuine and soulful quality to home-cooked food that is lacking in restaurant food.
MeatEater with Steven Rinella airs Thursday’s at 8PM EP
You can also follow Steven Rinella on the his MeatEater podcast.