This episode is going to make you hungry. Combining hunting and his passion for cooking, Venison Chef Derek St. Romain gets into cooking organic deer meat for himself and others. He dives into the value of hunting, processing, and cooking your meat into delectable dishes. What makes the process even more valuable is giving your extra catch to others. Derek also touches on single moms who are hunting their meat, feeding their children, and saving lots of money on organic food. Highlighting the importance of giving back in the industry, Derek shows how sharing to the owners of the hunting lands is caring.
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The Original Organic Meat – Venison Chef Derek St. Romain
I’m with my good friend down in the Carolinas, Chef Derek St. Romain. What’s so special about Derek? If you’re on Instagram or Facebook, you have seen his delicious delectables. It was one meal in the winter. I said, “Here’s my FedEx number. Send it to me.” I was being stupid but it looked that good to eat and I’m sure it was. He knows presentation. He knows how to take a piece of venison and make it into something exquisite. Derek and I have been kicking around an idea and he is going to have a show with us, Recipes by Chef Derek St. Romain presented by Whitetail Rendezvous. We’re going to do it on a monthly basis. I have twelve of them in twelve months. We are going to throw them together. We’re going to make a book and if you want to buy the book, you can buy the book. We haven’t gotten that far yet. We’ve got to get twelve episodes, and this is in all seriousness.
We were on Facebook Live and I said I was at some spiky restaurant eons ago and had this nice China and wine and everything. Outcomes the plates of food and then comes out the venison. It’s fancy with watercress and whatever else they had. They had that mushroom sauce and everything. That was a $29.95 dinner. The other thing about venison is it’s organic. The next time you get jumped by a non-hunter, “You shouldn’t kill stuff.” I killed and got processed 40 pounds of meat and I gave it to my neighbor and it was venison. It was 100% organic. That is worth on the street value about $20 a pound. You figure it out. What have you done lately for your neighbor next door to you? She’s a single mom with two kids. Did you go out and buy her 40 pounds? Not just ground, but 40 pounds of round sirloin? That’s not organic. Derek, what do you think?
Those are great arguments. It’s one that’s becoming more prevalent. I personally don’t understand the non-hunter saying anything negative about what we are doing. It quiets them down really quick. There’s so much stuff going on in our country right now that we can complain about, but it’s people like the guys that I hang out with that makes me proud to be an American. We do that. Somebody falls on hard times, we get together and not even through the organization. I’ll be honest with you, if I hear through my church or anywhere, everybody’s got to eat. That’s a fact. You have to eat to stay here, so why not do the right thing and bless somebody? It doesn’t have to be 40 pounds. Bring them five pounds. Do it once a week.
What a better way to check on somebody to check on your neighbor, “Let me bring you something to eat.” That’s one of the best things that we have with church groups. I am a chef. I take credit for that. When the moms are pregnant and if something happens, they’re bedridden or they’ve got a couple of weeks left and they’re having a hard time, I know they thoroughly enjoy those lasagnas that we bring to them or the taco meat, the taco casserole or something. It’s made with deer meat and I don’t even tell people anymore, to be honest with you. I just make it and I’ll wait for them to tell me how good it is, and then I’ll tell them it’s deer meat. It’s even better that way.
You think about where we’re at right now and we’re supposed to be helping people. One way we can do it is become a better hunter. Whitetail Rendezvous is all about becoming a better hunter. You can put meat down. You can harvest meat and kill meat. You can process meat and if you’re not going to use it for your family, you can give it away. That goes a long way in the whole spectrum because a lot of people can’t say that they’re even doing that. Another thing, if somebody knocks on your door, “You shouldn’t be hunting.” I look at him and I said, “What are you doing for your neighbor? How are you helping your neighbor?” “What do you mean?” “Are you cutting his grass? Are you buying his groceries? Are you paying his phone bill or paying his electric bill? What are you doing for your neighbor?” You don’t have to say anything. He just said, “Okay.” “I’m helping people. You’re not.” This isn’t political.
This is Whitetail Rendezvous and Chef Derek St. Romain talking about hunting and fixing up venison. More of it, hunters, we’re responsible for our actions. We cannot be responsible for somebody’s actions. Do the right thing. You’re killing a lot of deer. You put a lot of posts up on social media and you’re doing this recipe thing. It’s this recipe of the month and then we’ll put the blog on my page, link it to your page and then we’ll do a podcast about that recipe. We’ll do some filming. It’s not going to be The Food Channel, but it’s going to give you somewhat a semblance to say, “I get that,” and we’re going to go forth and do it.
Look at Steven Rinella. That guy is my idol. I would die to have that job, but he’s taking that message to people. That’s why I give it to him. He’s a chef. He can cook, but he’s showing people how he’s cooking on a hot rock out in the middle of the wilderness, cooking heart, tenderloins, liver and different things. Believe it or not, I get a lot of phone calls about that, especially foreigners that moved to the US. If you’ve never had deer tongue tacos, you are missing out. I’ll send you some of that. The heart, tongue, the different organs and things, making stocks and bases and things out of that, that’s how we used to live. Through these recipes, I can only do so many tenderloins. I can only make so many sauces and do different brines and so many different mushrooms. It’s starting to get into some of the exotic cuts of meat. It is so good.
Even myself, I find that I throw away sometimes the best parts. For years, I didn’t keep the heart and the tongue. Now I’m going to processors down the road and asking them, “Every time you clean a deer, can you keep the heart and tongue for me and freeze it?” For me, it’s the gift of knowledge back in a hunter’s hands. If you’re going to kill an animal, let’s figure out what we can do with the whole thing, make meals on it and share it. There’s nothing better than sharing it. That’s the best part for me.
I had the nose once. I didn’t know what I was eating. It was the moose’s nose and it was like, “Okay. Right.” There are a lot of parts. I love spending time up with the Inuit people in the Caribou because they eat every single part. Every single part of that animal was utilized.
I respect that. Think about where they live. I’ll tell you a little story and it puts things in perspective for me when I first started out with Backyard Bow Pro for a few years now. I had a gentleman from Africa in one of the seminars we were doing. He heard me. I was running my mouth about sustainability. In his accent he said, “Let me teach you, Mr. American, about sustainability.” He showed me a picture of a little garden that he had back in the village that he came from. It might’ve been 100 feet by 200 feet or something like that. It wasn’t very big. He said, “Every single plant, every leaf, every stem, everything that comes out of this garden we eat because that’s the only food we have. That’s sustainability.” I was like, “Wow.” It puts things into perspective for me because as Americans, we throw away about 67 million tons of food a day in America. That’s staggering.
We still have people walking around hungry. That’s what drives me. I love doing these recipes. I love eating great. I am very blessed to have seven children. 98% of the protein we take in is wild. It’s just a blessing to be able to do what I do and share it. I don’t know if anybody’s ever walked into a food bank before where the freezer was empty and you walk in with 400 pounds of meat. They appreciate that. These families that come in North Carolina, we’ve got counties where 60% of the county is using food banks to live. That’s staggering to me. It’s heartwarming.
You mentioned so many tons of food get tossed out. Unfortunately, that’s from a restaurant because of certain laws. I was aligned with a rescue mission and we would go out to restaurants. We know they’re throwing food away. Because of the laws, you just can’t do that. There’s some reason for that. We do have a hunger problem and that’s a distribution problem. Going back to what I said at the top of the show, it’s a caring problem. When was the last time you took a meal over to somebody you completely didn’t know and fed their kid and said, “I’m good for the month?” People don’t do that enough. There are people that do that though. Don’t get me wrong. Get out of you and invest in other people and forget about, “I must be earning now.” Forget about your BMW or your wristwatch or whatever you hold dear. Even hunters ourselves, “Do I need another game camera?” I’m going to call it $100.The best part of hunting is sharing your meat afterwards. Click To Tweet
At Christmas time, everything you say, I get a full positive, “I don’t need that stuff.” You take that and you say, “I have a couple of thousand dollars.” You go to your buddy and say, “What are we going to do?” You get the guys in the backyard and go, “We can make some damage here.” We can go to a grocery store and say, “You’re going to shut your store down because we have $10,000 that’s going to be spent the next hour, even if you want the money or not. It’s going to be spent right here. Here’s the cash. Everybody who comes in here, we don’t care what they want. Run them through and when we’re done with $10,000, we’re done. Nobody gets semi-load. Everybody gets a basket.” We’re kicking things around here because that’s how Derek and I are but think about doing that. Think about that type of movement and then all of a sudden, it wouldn’t all be political or people getting shot on TV, “Can you believe this?” I don’t know your thoughts. I’m rambling on, but it goes to food because I’ve seen so much with working at rescue missions. There are people where all they want is a meal, one meal a day.
Go offer to work at a food bank. They’re always accepting. People will come help. It’s not hard. You’re basically sitting there. They know most people don’t know how to cook in a professional kitchen, so they’re looking for people to cut some onions and scoop some soup out. Look at the people that are there. You’re going to be shocked. You’re going to be looking at yourself. Let me tell you a little story. Several years ago, Mr. Chef here ran from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I’m from New Orleans, and I left the night before Katrina. l thought I was somebody. I had some money or I thought I did anyway. I left my home and quickly found myself in a line at a food bank. It had never crossed my mind one time at any point in my life I would have to look for a meal.
That’s what started all this for me. I was doing it beforehand just because I like to share. To be honest with you, at the time, I’d kill a deer and I was probably the only person I knew that was eating it at the time. Now, fast forward a few years, I don’t care how somebody got to the point that they need help. That is none of my business. I get that from some people sometimes. What if the person’s not helping them themselves? That is none of my business. I could care less. I want to help people. God’s given me the talent to cook and also hunt and has blessed me with properties and all kinds of different resources. I use it to the fullest extent because we’re not going to be here forever. I’m closing in on 50. That bow gets a little harder to pull back every year, especially in December.
That’s why they created crossbows. Thinking about that, to eat a deer, you’ve got to kill a deer. Let’s talk about killing deer. You get a lot of deer in the Carolinas. Are you shooting mostly does or bucks? Let’s talk about your hunting.
I am a doe slayer. I killed my first big buck a few years ago and I had already shot a doe. It was just by chance. I knew he was there. I knew he was in the area, but I don’t do a lot of big buck hunting and I don’t tell anybody what to do. If you want to sit in a tree three years after one big buck, that’s great. Do it. I go off with a little mission, kill a lot of does early in the season. I’ll hunt the rut, and then at the end of the season, we go back to killing does a lot. North Carolina for the last few years has had an open season. In the area we hunt, you can kill as many does as you want. You get six tags a year and then you can buy two doe tags every day. We would go out and do it.
Some people might look at that and say, “You’re going to kill all the deer.” First of all, I don’t think we could. In North Carolina, there are so many. I hunt a lot of land. I’ve got 3,000 acres off on it. I haven’t paid a lease fee in a decade. It’s all in a handshake in through Backyard Bow Pro and our properties. A lot of it is farmland where after deer season, we might have killed fifteen, eighteen deer off of this organic farm and after deer season, the landowners are going and applying for deer tags. They come out with depredation permits for twenty more deer off the property because there’s that many. We’re not trying to kill them all. I don’t want to kill them all. Why would I want that? I want a place to hunt. To get the herd back in a natural setting, it takes work.
In 2018, North Carolina changed the law. You don’t get any bonus tags. It’s just six, two bucks and four does. I’m wondering about what’s going to happen. Every time I go deer hunting, I see deer. It’s not like it wasn’t Louisiana. I didn’t see deer like I see up here North Carolina and South Carolina. Back to the point, I kill a ton of does and get all those processed for $40 a deer for the processor. It’s about 200 meals a deer is what we use as our counting. If you’ve got ten guys and everybody puts up a few bucks, you raised $500, you can go and donate twelve deer. That’s a lot of meals. Two thousand four hundred meals, you’re donating to your local food bank. Trust me, they’re going to love you. People ask, “How did you get those 3,000 acres to hunt on and you don’t pay any lease fees?” It’s because I do what I said I was going to do. I went out and I hunted the property. The first deer that walked out, I killed it and I dragged it back to the landowner.
A lady asked me, “Come onto my property. I see ten or fifteen deer every evening in my yard eating my hostas and eating this, eating that. I had some other guys that come out here. Do you think you can do it?” I’m like, “That’s fine. I’ll give it a shot.” I came out there. I went there 45 minutes and I killed two does. I’m back at the truck and she’s like, “I’m so sorry you didn’t see anything.” I was like, “I’ve got two right here in the truck.” She has landed more properties for me than I ever could have because she went and told every one of her friends that are in her garden club and in her flower club, “You’ve got to meet Chef Derek. I had people hunting my property and never killed the deer. He came out there day one and killed two does, cooked some meals for me and my husband and donates the meat at the church down the road.” It’s because I said I was going to do something and I did it and that just goes a long way with people.
That’s the biggest thing hunters can learn. If somebody lets you on their property, treat it better than if it was your own. If you go out there and there’s trash out there, pick the trash up. If you get pictures of other hunters on the property, tell the landowner what they need to do to stop that. Think about it. If you don’t hunt, you don’t have guns, you don’t have weapons and somebody is telling you there are other people on your property, people get scared. Help them. Tell them what to do, get involved, post the land for them and then do what you said you were going to do. Think about it. That first year, you hunt a twenty-acre place and you kill three or four does, you’re going to prove to a landowner that you did what you said you were going to do, then you can manage that little property for the next ten years. You don’t have to kill every doe that walks by. You can be selective.
You might catch that eight-point that all the neighbors see. I’m not that lucky, but you might be. We get big properties too the same way. I’ve got a 400-acre dairy farm and they love us because we donate deer off of their property. We do what we say we’re going to do. I’m always filling their freezer up first and then killing deer and doing it respectfully. I post the property, keeping trespassers out. That’s a lot of land. With a 70-year-old couple, they’re not going to walk far. I keep game cameras out, keeping trespassers out and keeping everything honest. More importantly, you’re caring and you’re sharing. There’s no more you need to say to that.
Talk about recipes. You have sausages. I love eating them up and I’d love all the breakfast and meals that we get from venison. I love venison jerky because when I’m at high country, no matter where I’m at, I get something to nibble. Bacon and all those things, it isn’t just a cut of meat. It’s so many things you can do with the cut of meat that the venison becomes the foundation of it. That’s why I like venison. With smokies and Slim Jim’s, it goes on and on. I hunt in Wisconsin, so they’re used to prepare meat any way you want it. You say it’s not pork, it’s venison and they’d go, “Okay,” and away you go. It beats me.
I get more people asking me about deer sausage and jerky than anything. Even if they don’t know it and they find out I’m a chef, “Do you know how to make jerky?” “Yeah. I know what to make jerky. With seven kids, trust me. I learned how to make jerky a long time ago.” With venison in that sausage, it’s so versatile. It’s low in fat so that you can add a ton of things to it or you don’t have to add a ton of things to it. I have one recipe I do where I don’t add any fat. I’ll say that you’ve got to be pretty good at what you’re doing to make that recipe come out right, but it’s doable where you’re just adding vegetables and powdered milk and such. I found this company. For years and years, I’ve been using Minor’s Demi Glace and chicken base. It’s a base paste where you’re making chicken stock and you mix a tablespoon of this base paste. I found this company and he has bacon base paste. It’s a life-changing event.Venison is more nutritious and has more amino acids than beef. Click To Tweet
I came up with a recipe and I’ll share it here for sure, but I do a chipotle bacon venison sausage. It’s incredible. It is by far the best sausage I’ve ever had and I’ve tried all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s that bacon smokey flavor. Even if you don’t smoke the sausage, even if you’re just stuffing it or you’re leaving it, I make sausage all different kinds of ways where we leave it in bulk or leave it in a hamburger patty form and make Po’ boys out of it and such. It’s by far the best recipe I’ve ever done. I patted myself on the back of that. It’s something so easy, people overthink it. You’re making deer sausage. You can get as technical as you want, but it’s not that hard.
When we’re talking about jerky, most new ovens now you can turn the heat down to 160 degrees, which means you don’t need your smoker anymore. You can make jerky in the oven and we’ll go through that one time as well. It’s a very simple process. You put it in the oven, open the door overnight, put a little towel or something there to keep the door open so the moisture’s escaping. By the time you wake up in the morning, your jerky is done. I made twenty pounds of jerky over the Christmas holiday and my kids ate it all.
What’s your strength rate?
It’s a lot actually. I’d have to look at it. I’d say at least 60%, 70% of the weight for sure. If you’ve got ten pounds of ground venison, you’re going to wind up with about three pounds of jerky. That’s using the little gun. You’re taking the ground and using your little jerky gun and making little strips. I call it leather. I don’t know what everyone else calls it, but I call it turkey leather. It’s good. I do a crawfish boil flavor. I do all kinds of stuff. Nothing gets me talking more than recipes.
We’re going to have plenty of months of it, that’s for sure. If this works out well, there should be some good things coming out. Like everything, you’ve got to work it, you’ve got to see if the audience want it. We’re reaching over 235,000 people. There are a lot of markets out there. If you’re a company and want to be part of something, get a hold of Derek, get a hold of me and we can take one partner and the rest is Derek and me. We would be open to discussing what that would look like because we’re going to have video, we’re going to have cookbooks, and we’re going to have ways for people to take that food. Early on I jumped on hunters, but there are people that have never been exposed to hunting. They had never been exposed to how to clean a squirrel, clean pheasants, breasted grouse, quarter a deer, quarter a doe. They just don’t know how to do it because nobody ever showed them.
We get them to that point, then we get the meat to them and say, “Now you’re going to be able to get and process your own meat.” I can’t tell you how many ladies who’ve been on the show, single moms that all of a sudden, they went out and killed a deer. They got help to process the deer meat in the freezer and never went to the grocery store. They never had to open it up for their checkbook, never had to get out the credit card, never had to do anything. All of a sudden, how liberating is that? It’s incredible. All of a sudden, she’s empowered and then she finds out all the ladies would like to do it too. They go, “You’d like to do it too. Let’s do it together.” The people that are on the edge on how does this all work, that’s one way it works because you’ve got people working together becoming empowered to take care of their own needs. That’s powerful.
I’m down with that, especially with single moms or single dads or whoever. It’s expensive. I’ve got a house full of kids. I bought 30 pounds of ground beef because I got a good deal on it to be honest with you. That’s the only reason why I bought it. You’re looking at $4 or $5 a pound for some processed, fat-laden beef that’s 20% fat. That’s a lot of fat. You could kill a deer and you get 40 pounds, 50 pounds of ground, pure, less than 3% fat in that meat. It’s got all the nutrition in it, all your amino acids. You can’t get that out of beef. You can get it in some places, but you’re paying a lot more than $4 a pound for that grass-fed beef and other organic beef. I went to a farmer’s market. They wanted $12 a pound for rabbits. I said, “Am I in the wrong end of this business?” $12 a pound for a rabbit and a hunting license in North Carolina is $45. A box of shells for a twelve-gauge may be $20. You do some rabbit hunting. It’s mind-boggling to me and they sold out. That was the other thing. That’s $30 a rabbit, something like that or close to it.
It was organic. It was skinned. It was ready. You have to know how to cook it. You could boil it, you can broil it, you can fry it, do all those types to it. That’s good stuff. Have at it. Everybody, just open your mind to what you can do with food and where food comes from and then figure out the most economical way to get some food. Morel hunters are out there. They’ve been out there for a while. I don’t know what they’re selling per pound, but it’s a lot.
How many grow in North Carolina? I don’t know if there’s a lot.
We’ve been rambling here. Derek and I are going to be working on some things. Both of us want you to be thinking about what kind of recipe you want. My email address is WhitetailRendezvous@Gmail.com. Derek’s is Derek@BackyardBowPro.com. I can be found at Whitetail Rendezvous. Google me, I’m out there in social media. Derek, how can people get a hold of you?
We want to hear from you and we’ll get this up and launched. We’re going to have a winner of the month. They give us a submitted recipe, Derek’s going to cook it, then we’re going to eat it. We’re going to rank it and somebody’s going to win something. I don’t know what that something is, don’t ask me but it will be something. Maybe something worthwhile, but we’ve got a lot of plans. What you eat is what you are and that’s the truth. If you ever do any mountains or high intensity, extreme type hunting, you better get good stuff in here or you’re going to crash big time. Any final thoughts?
Definitely stay tuned because wild pigs are on the move in the United States. I’ve been doing a little freelance work on the side and we can branch out not from just the deer. We can do a pig or two here and that is some good eating. I don’t particularly want pigs around me, but I’m going to do a little traveling doing some turkey hunting and some pig hunting and that’s some good eating. That’s all I can say to that. In the next ten years, you’re going to see pig hunting and a whole lot of gear specialized in pig hunting. From me, you’re going to see a whole lot of recipes and a whole lot of things geared towards that too because those little things do some damage, but they sure do taste good. It still doesn’t compare to the deer hunting though. I’ll be honest with you, I’m a deer hunting nut. If it’s not deer season, I’ll go out to the pigs. If it was deer season, I’m going out.
Thank you so much. It’s a prelude to what Derek and I are going to be up to.