When Cookery and Conservation Unite

March 8, 2024
March 7, 2024

NorthTec’s hospitality team joined forces with the Northland Regional Council (NRC) to, once again, bring wild food treats to the Northland Field Days which took place between the 29th of February to the 2nd of March last week.

Eating pests doesn’t exactly sound delicious until someone adds in the words ‘wild caught venison’, then people are suddenly more on board with the idea. A joint creation between NorthTec | Te Pūkenga Level 4 cookery students, their tutor Hughie Blues and NRC saw around 40 kilogrammes of wild venison used to create venison bruschetta, topped with red onion jam and a horopito creme fraiche which was served over the course of the Northland Field Days.

The collaboration was created to draw attention to the issue wild deer pose to the environment. The council, along with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and hapū, is currently working on a project to eradicate wild deer from Northland, starting with the small population of sika deer in Russell Forest.

“I think the idea is awesome,” says Keenan Shine, one of the students currently undertaking the NZ Certificate in Cookery (Level 4) with NorthTec and one of two ākonga serving venison at the Northern Field Days. “I’m a hunter myself, so I’m aware of the issue of pests and have hunted and eaten a lot of them, such as dear, possum, and wallaby. It’s a great thing to get rid of a pest and fill bellies at the same time.”

“The field days are a great opportunity for chef tutor, Hughie Blues and his Level 4 students to engage with the public and show off their culinary skills,” says Lisette Buckle, NorthTec’s Pathway Manager- Service Industries. “With the prevalence of wild foods and alternative protein sources, this is a wonderful way to display diverse, tasty dishes whilst highlighting the issues pests pose for our native fauna and flora.”

“The ability to come over and help on the day has been really cool,” explains Keenan. “A lot of the food was prepared offsite, then we could put it together quickly on the day. It’s been a really good opportunity for us to experience a different side to hospitality, instead of being in a kitchen in a restaurant it’s opened me up to looking at more finger food and buffet style of preparing food which I haven’t done before.”

NorthTec’s cookery students often get real-world, on-the-job experience throughout the course, with plenty of options to test and show off their new skills. Despite students getting a firm grounding in traditional cooking skills and techniques, they still get the chance to learn more modern or niche abilities as well, giving them a solid foundation to work from.

“The experience was definitely worth it,” Keenan confirms with a smile. “I found out that I really enjoy this style of cooking, I like being able to interact with people, see them respond to my cooking. You’re able to have a chat with them. It’s really nice. Cooking for people, feeding people, is such an important part of culture and community.”

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