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This year is the Chinese year of the Rabbit, I wanted to begin to introduce an array of fellow craftsman from across the country, John Fink of San Francisco as part of an ongoing  outdoorsman industry insider interview.

I met John recently at an event in the S.F. area as I finished judging the meat category of the Good Food Awards. The Good Food Awards is a platform to recognize artisan and craft producers of a variety of foods from across the country. During the even yet another fellow craftsman Dave “The Butcher” Budworth (to be featured in an upcoming article) was doing a half hog carcass breakdown. So in speaking with John I found that what he does is the essence of what outdoor gatherings are about as we stood amongst the S.F. Downtown Skyscrapers eating tacos from a food truck, outside of the coffee roasting warehouse where the event was being held. Additionally the fact that John yields a welder to craft his own equipment is pretty bad ass, and in our world of Jeeping, remote places there  is nothing like a good chef that can whip up a feast but also take care of your potential Jeep breakage needs.

How did you come about creating the Whole Beast Company?

Over the last couple of years I have spent time visiting and learning from local farmers who are raising heritage breed animals, going back to the traditions of farming and raising the animals humanely and the line of husbandry. This learning has coincided with my deep interest in fire cooking whole animals over hard woods. With these two areas of passion, I decided to create The Whole Beast as as a way to celebrate the art and practice of cooking over fire along with cooking whole animals that have been humanely grown and prepared in a holistic manner.

Was any formal training required and how did you get into this?

I have my degree from the Cordon Blue and I have been a professional chef for 20 years. Through my upbringing I was exposed to sustainability from my grandparents as well as growing up in the farm lands of Kansas City and rural Pennsylvania, and in college and after I was a commercial fisherman. I’ve done my own research on small animal farms which are bringing back heritage breeds; as well as learned from chefs I have worked with who have shared how they cook all manner of goat, deer, yaks, camels, horse, pig and the rituals behind cooking with whole animals. My Cuban-American brother in law and his father have also shown me their process for a whole pig roast. I’ve taken all of this knowledge and applied it to my culinary training which gives me a substantial base to draw from.

Is what you do a commonplace in the culinary world?

Yes and no. People are cooking whole animals but normally it is on an indoor rotisserie, which is my least favorite way of cooking an animal. There is a true art of cooking a whole animal over a hard-wood fire outdoors–and this very old practice is a more soulful, difficult and hands on way to cook an animal.

I understand you make a lot of custom equipment for what you do, what was the most challenging?

Working with the iron cross is a challenge on many fronts from securing the animal properly but also being able to rotate it. Fire-cooking uses a tremendous amount of fuel and I have to take into account weather and wind flow which translates to smoke direction.

What is your overall outdoor kitchen comprised of other than the special equipment needed?

My whole outdoor kitchen could be considered special equipment. Stainless steel grills housed with an aluminum frame, cinderblocks, rakes, shovels, wood that is indicative to the area for sustainability reasons, oven tiles, welders or fireman’s gloves, a large enough space. I worked with friends to create a few items which work well for my cooking including a Maple hardwood cutting board large enough for whole animal preparation, butchering and carving, handmade to specification in North Carolina, and a custom-made whole animal grill rack that turns on an axel over the fire.

What was the most memorable and/or remote area dinner feast you’ve done?

The Kuleto–Thomas Keller dinner

Chef and restaurateur Pat Kuleto had just finished building his outdoor oven at his winery, and I was the first to debut cooking in it. I was cooking a 42lb spring lamb for Chef Thomas Keller and his executive team. It was a lot of pressure! We did a simple herb rub of rosemary, parsley, olive oil and black pepper, the challenge was using an oven which had never been used before as well as a way that I was not as familiar with. It was a fine balancing act of pulling out coals and keeping the temp on the lamb so the oven didn’t get too hot and dry the lamb out to jerky, it turned out amazing but it was a real learning experience for me. The French Laundry team was very complimentary of the meal–which was so gratifying!

Sockeye Salmon Roast Vashon Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington State.

It had been a great sockeye salmon run season, they were running bigger than normal and had great fat content, it was an amazing opportunity to use a local fish from such a beautiful agricultural island. I cooked it over alder wood which is indicative to the area, and stuffed it with local herbs and veggies grown on the island. I built a fire on the beach and paired it with Dungeness crab that I had caught earlier that day. It was an amazing neighborhood party at sunset, sharing and swapping stories

What is your favorite animal to prepare?

Lamb requires the perfect amount of cooking time- roughly 4 hours, just enough time that you get into the process but not too much that it requires a whole day. I love bringing out the true flavor of lamb and turning non lamb lovers into lamb lovers. We are so use to being brought up on the “lamb” that are actually “ewe”. They are over 50 lbs tend to taste gamey and probably not feed great food. A true lamb is subtle, and juicy, not gamey at all.

Recipe for Lamb Chermoula Rub (1 animal)

4 qrts Yogurt- Greek or Goat milk

2 cups Chermoula

1 lb Ginger

1 lbGarlic

5 Jalepeno

10 Lemon Zest

2 bunches Mint

2 bunches Cilantro

Planning to celebrate the year of the rabbit, John even has a full menu to assist or give you some ideas on his website. Check it out by visiting

– Check out our interview of Nick Chaset from the Bull Moose Society by clicking here

* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

The Bull Moose Hunt Society is a small group in San Francisco that focuses on responsible gun ownership, ethical hunting, and human camaraderie. Being an avid outdoorsman myself (not so avid as of recent due to family, work and business obligations), I thought to myself, “Hmmm…Bull Moose Hunting Society in Northern California, specifically the Bay Area…I’ve got to investigate!”

I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with one of the founders Nick Chaset.

A funny thing happened within a sea of opinions against anything remotely mentioning the use of guns and hunting animals. Two friends, Nick Chaset, a native San Franciscan and his friend Nick Zigelbaum, native Bostonian (now living in San Francisco), wanted
to find out more about guns and seeking out critters to kill and consume in a responsible and ethical fashion, hence the birth of the Bull Moose Hunt Society. Nick grew up in a very liberal area of the country, and pondered when he was posed the question over two
and a half years ago, “How is it you can eat something you haven’t killed yourself?” So the adventure began…

Chef D:  How did you come about creating the Bull Moose Hunt Society?

Nick C: Once asked the question about “killing what I eat”, it piqued my interest in finding out more about guns, hunting, and all that it encompasses. From preparing for the journey itself, to consuming something I personally sought out, killed ethically, processed ourselves, to ultimately consume amongst friends, proved a very moving experience.

I found as I researched there was actually a lot more people interested in this than I expected. For me the whole process is a very real and humanistic experience. The outdoors and aspects of conservation are abundant. A fun aspect to what we are doing is challenging the preconceptions of hunting and gun ownership in a very liberal community yet in a positive and meaningful way.

Chef D:  Was any formal training required?

Nick C: Yes, we wanted to seek out and research the most responsible ways in which to accomplish the activity as a whole. Growing
up in a San Francisco household I wasn’t exactly exposed much to guns and/or gun handling. Never mind hunting. I went to a local
shooting range and spoke in depth with the range master, as well other responsible gun owner/operators attending the range.

Additionally, we visited a local game ranch. We spent a full day with the rancher to seek advice on all the aspects of the animals, land,
conservation and conditions.

Furthermore, we sought out the expertise and advice of responsible hunters and gun owners on the internet web sites and forums. Most people were very surprised by the fact that two guys from SF were not only interested in guns and hunting, but that we actually had a true appreciation for it all.

Chef D:  Is the Bull Moose Hunt Society considered to be rare or fairly commonplace?

Nick C: Within our personal education regarding it all we have found it to be very common outside of San Francisco, largely in the Mountain west, Midwest and South. In San Francisco, most certainly it is something that is very rare but it doesn’t have to be. We have approximately seven BMHS members but the friends of BMHS are many, especially when we have a freshly harvested animal. We invite upwards of 100 people; friends, chefs, friends of friends, and friends of chefs for our feasts. Chefs are always especially interested, even more so with the nature of SF’s food scene. It is always a very rewarding experience to expose and collaborate with likeminded individuals.

When we BBQ there is a commonality…sharing heritage, good food and good times, something that we have lost or disconnected with over the years as a society. Being in touch with our hunter/gatherer nature and consciousness of the outdoors, a deeper awareness of our senses, the smells, sounds, animal tracking as a whole is a very moving and personal experience.

At the BBQ’s, preconceptions are left at the door, anti-gun, antihunting or anti-meat is all swept to the side. Again, we love to chat about the hunt, all the preparation once an animal is harvested, the experience as a whole. It is a great education for ourselves and we enjoy sharing that with others. Both of our girlfriends are not exactly thrilled about us having firearms but they know it is very important to us. They also know that we have invested a great deal of education and time in handling and safety of firearms.

There is a large cross section of population diversity that is interested in what we do and even members, as well friends, range from a solar energy installer to a firefighter to liberals and conservatives both. We found there to be people from rural, suburban, and urban centers alike interested and practicing these same interests.

Chef D: When out on an adventure, do you prepare the food yourself or is there a favorite hot spot you gravitate towards?

Nick C: To date we have only done overnight and one day trips, so foods that are quick, hearty or light to carry and provide sustenance is what we typically bring. We certainly make or swap a lot of jerky venison or other game meat jerky.

Being in SF we have access to some of the greatest breads, cheeses and other foods in the world for simple consumption at camp. We would like to eventually do something longer such as three or five –day hunt treks into the backcountry. As with our diligent research with guns and hunting, we will do the same regarding food and equipment for longer trips.

Chef D: What is your favorite adventure comfort food and beverage?

Nick C: Venison jerky from game trades with others or our own jerky. My favorite beverage would have to be a pull of Jameson Whiskey from the flask. This is strictly of course only after the day concludes, ammunition has been unloaded and we are settled at camp for the evening. We can’t stress enough the importance of safety regarding alcohol consumption. It is something we take
extraordinary and serious steps with both our own actions as well educating others on regarding the matter.

Chef D: What is your adventure kitchen comprised of?

Nick C: A simple camp stove for very simple preparations such as stew.

Chef D: What is the biggest challenge of preparing food out on the hunt?

Nick C: Not so much with what we eat while hunting as that is the easy part. It is when we have the opportunity to harvest a live animal, the challenge lies within safely preparing the animal in the field to consume at a later time at home with our friends. How we process, pack, and prepare a freshly harvested animal would be the biggest challenge. Educating ourselves before our first trip was a high priority.

Chef D: Can you recall your most memorable adventure “game hunt”?

Nick C: The very first time two years ago, it was a wild boar sow named Bertha at a game ranch 150 miles north of San Francisco. The complete story is here:

Each time we go it is being in touch with and having our hands on the whole process, going through the motions of seeing a live animal become cuts of meat to becoming cooked product on a plate, ultimately being consumed and enjoyed by friends.

* Published by JPFreek Jeep Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

From the kitchen of Stann Grater our Summer 2009 JPFreek Adventure Magazine Industry Insider.

Visit and subscribe to JPFreek Adventure Magazine to pick up this issue and read more on Stann, as well a ton of other great adventure information.

Chicken Thigh and Kielbasa Cassoulet

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days
Makes 6 servings
Total time: 45 minute

Classic Cassoulet recipes can take days to make and of course contain rashers of duck, smoked meats and the like. My version keeps it simple and is not as rich as others and with one skillet preparation and 45 minutes to prepare. ENJOY!

2 15 ounce cans of white beans, rinsed
¾ cup toasted bread crumbs.
(Fresh is best but pre-made is OK)
2 tablespoons Extras Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
trimmed of fat and cut into thirds
1 pound cut into ½” slices Kielbasa or like sausage
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon rosemary (fresh is best or dried is OK)
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup water
2 tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley

1. Put ½ cup beans is a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add the remaining beans, and mix gently and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper then add to the skillet. Cook, until browned turning once, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
3. Add onion and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rosemary, thyme and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine, increase heat and stir with a wooden spatula to scrap browned bits from bottom of the pan, until wine has reduced by half. Add broth, water, Kielbasa, the reserved beans and chicken; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked thoroughly, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Top with the bread crumbs and parsley.

Note: This can be made 3 days in advance and reheated in a 350 oven for 45 minutes or a Dutch oven over a campfire.

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