For Zed Talks this month, we met with Jose Souto, chef, senior lecturer at Kingsway College and author of The Venison Game Larder, to discuss the importance of sustainability, the health benefits of game and the public knowing where their food comes from.
How did you start working with game?
I started my focus with game at college. I am not originally from a countryside background, my family is from northern Spain in a little seaside town and I was born in London. At an early age I remember yearning for outdoors living, so as I got older I spent more time in Spain with family, in an area which still had wild wolves on the land. It was there that I grew to appreciate what is out there and how to best make use of it. When I was in college, a lecturer brought in pheasants and hares in a raw state which sparked my interest. I was interested in how game is diverse and different. As a chef, the flavour pairings are different to work with when cooking game and that challenged me.
What is it about education that you are passionate about, as opposed to working strictly as a chef?
I believe that all chefs are educators to an extent. All chefs teach their team and their patrons in their preparations, and naturally teach other chefs. I felt I was naturally adept at this. I was lucky enough that due to my knowledge of game I was asked to explore further educating the public. It begin with teaching the preparation of game to the chefs at the House of Commons. A lot of the original teaching was old out of date which was an exciting opportunity for me to update it. Game can be stuck in old recipes, and now people have become more creative. I enjoyed explaining this to the chefs. I also believe very strongly in the importance of provenance, and I want to tell people more about it. The more I know about game the better and I want to encourage other people to think that way and educate themselves. Full understanding is important, including the name of the farmer or a picture of the estate, which creates a lust for embracing the origin of our products. Producers feel they have created something special and their consumer finds a deeper appreciation. Gradually, as people know more, the products become more accessible to more classes of people.
Where did you find inspiration for The Game Larder and how did you make sure it stood out against any competition?
I know there isn’t anything like it out there. I haven’t come across the same approach. I went through 8 publishers initially, many who thought it as too niche, or not the right time to release it. I have tried to produce a book for everyone, the stalkers, the chefs, the foodies etc. which collectively delivers the initiatives to everyone. It includes conversations, education and offers every aspect of the subject.
You have been quoted as saying, “all food has a story to tell, and we should know that story” What does this mean and why is it important?
Provenance is vastly important and conveys to people what it is and where it comes from. It is really important that children understand because it promotes good health and a positive environment. Ill education is bad ethics. We to know how society handles your food and encourage sustainability and good practice.
What is next for you?
The Game Larder goal is to be the definitive book on game. We will take our time to do a total of three on Venison, Feathers and Rabbit/Hare/Others. We are now a year and a half into the Feathers edition. I want to give the attention and the diversity it deserves. It will cover Step by Steps, preparation methods, beautiful imagery, and feature falconry as a method of harvesting. Be sure to check out @thegamelarder so you can follow the whole story, including stunning imagery from Steve Lee, who has been an integral part of this journey.