This Chef Is Playing A Real-Life Version Of The Oregon Trail

Photo: Courtesy of Brilynn Ferguson.
Chef Michael Hunter has chosen his team, packed his wagon, and set his pace for a real-life journey on the Oregon Trail. Well, sort of. The Canadian chef isn’t actually going to Willamette Valley, and he won’t be fording the river or caulking the wagon anytime soon. But, just like the characters in our favorite childhood computer game, Chef Hunter (yes, his last name is too perfect) hunts for 90% of the meat he eats at home, often using a crossbow. 
This Hunter is also a gatherer; he forages for wild mushrooms and veggies, and taps maple trees north of his home in Toronto. We caught up with the chef to discuss his back-to-basics lifestyle, his qualms about killing animals, and his hopes for the future when it comes to eating meat. Plus, check out his recipe for venison pizza below.

When Hunter fell in love with hunting:
Hunter truly fell in love with eating wild game when his mentor, Steve Clifton, (a professional huntsman) took him turkey hunting at the age of 18. “I couldn’t believe the flavor difference between the wild turkeys and the turkey I had grown up eating at Christmas and Thanksgiving. The meat’s a lot darker, the skin is yellow; it’s not white. There’s no comparison between wild and farmed game. You can go to a restaurant and order venison, but for me it tastes nothing like a wild deer.”

What he wishes people knew about hunting:
“I think hunting has really gotten a bad rap being associated with trophy hunters. In Canada, trophy hunting is illegal. Anything that is shot needs to be eaten, legally. Hunting programs do a lot for wildlife conservation, conservation of wetlands, and conservation of animals’ natural habitats. People think hunters are depleting the population, whereas hunters are really the ones that are promoting conservation of wildlife.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Hunter Chef.
He's the first to admit that hunting can be kind of gross.
"It’s really, really hard to shoot a deer. They are these beautiful, majestic creatures, and it’s hard. I do all the butchery and the cleaning myself. So, definitely, gutting an animal is pretty gruesome. You get a little bit desensitized to it, but it’s not pretty.”

But, it's taught him important lessons.
“I definitely have a lot more respect for eating meat. Meat comes from animals; it doesn’t come from a Styrofoam package in the store. I think people overeat a lot of meat just because they’re not really associating it with an animal."

Don't worry, there's a Starbucks on the Oregon Trail.
“Once in a while I have a little guilty pleasure, but not very often. I try and stick to my friends’ restaurants…I am human. I do go to Starbucks every once in a while. But, I don’t make McDonald’s part of my daily diet.”  
Photo: Courtesy of The Hunter Chef.
Venison Bresaola Pizza

Ingredients

Crust

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp honey
1 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Toppings
35 slices venison or beef bresaola
1 cup Grana Padano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups arugula
4 cups cremini mushrooms
1/2 tsp Maldon or sea salt 

Instructions

1. Combine warm water with yeast and honey and allow to sit for 5 minutes to activate yeast.

2. Combine flour and salt, make a well in the center of the flour, and pour in the water mixture.

3. Add the olive oil and begin to work the flour into the water with a fork.

4. Once flour is incorporated, begin to knead the dough for 5 minutes until a smooth ball has been made.

5. Place a damp cloth over the dough and rest in a warm place.

6. Allow to rise until dough is double in size.

7. Cut dough into 4 even halves and stretch into rounds.

8. Bake at 500°F on a heated stone plate until bottom of crust is golden.

9. Remove from oven and evenly distribute toppings. Finish with olive oil. 
To see more of Chef Michael Hunter's hunting adventures and dishes, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.     
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