Find out what led chef Bri Van Scotter to join the ranks of the hunting community and eventual kickstart "Wilderness to Table."
Not everyone who hunts has done it since day one.
Just ask Bri Van Scotter, who started later in life on an unconventional path towards becoming an avid hunter. Like many, it was her passion for food that first introduced the notion, and from there it's become a serious part of her identity, cooking style, and every day life.
Bri's upbringing wasn't conducive to hunting, especially considering her mother's adherence to animal rights principles. But her appreciation for the natural world and her drive to become a professional chef combined to push her into the hunting community.
"The love of the outdoors actually eventually led me to want to hunt, because I love being outside so much," Van Scotter said. "The chef in me, it was like a lightbulb moment. Why am I not hunting for my food? I praise farmers, and actively seek out farmers who grow organic produce. Why am I not actually harvesting my own organic, non-GMO protein?"
As is the case with many first hunts, Bri wasn't successful with her first shot at a deer. But, the value of a missed shot, especially for a beginner, is made clear pretty quickly.
"I learned the most from that hunt," she said in reflection, mentioning the ways shot placement, archery skills, and even her gender factored into her experience as a hunter.
From there, her interest levels skyrocketed and success in the field followed shortly after. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, in Napa California, with a degree in Culinary Arts, then worked as the wild game cooking editor for Ballistics Magazine. She's also worked in some of the top restaurants across the United States as an Executive Chef and an Executive Pastry Chef.
Developing wild game recipes beyond what she encountered in her own initial research meant she was making real contributions to both the culinary and sporting worlds.
"Cooking was my first passion, and hunting is my second passion, but I hunt to cook and I cook to hunt. Now I can't see myself just being a cook any more," Bri said. "I need to be a hunter in order to be a better cook."
Those are the kind of interconnections that make hunting so great.
Bri's new book, "The Complete Wild Game Cookbook," is a collection of new recipes and techniques that highlight her mission, which in her words is "to showcase self harvested wild game, foraged foods and sustainability in a delicious and beautiful light."
We should all know by now how important it is to add to the overall hunter numbers in our country. With the continued urbanization of our cultures, the distance between our lives and the natural world seems to increase. And with each passing generation, certain things are lost. We're fighting a battle within the hunting community to ensure our voices are heard and our values aren't forgotten.
It's easy to see why someone like Bri can capitalize on her hunting lifestyle, and why it's so vital to open more eyes to those benefits. Mainstream, non-hunting audiences need to know these things, too. The more people there are like Bri in the world, the better off hunters will be in the long run.