Chef Michael Hunter’s Antler Kitchen & Bar is a showcase for wild Canadiana.
Its walls are decorated with mounted deer antlers and photographs of maple trees tapped with syrup and morels ripe for plucking. And just in case that messaging eludes customers the chefs wear aprons made of hunting camo – the material supplied by hunters go to brand Mossy Oak. Canada’s 100 Best asked chef how he would be transplanting the message to Taste of Toronto.
Michael Hunter: Our icon [premier] dish for the event is roast rack of New Zealand venison. We toast cinnamon, clove, star anise, cardamom, allspice and juniper until it’s black, then grind it to a powder, and rub that on the meat. Then roast it rare. We’ll be doing 500 portions.
C100B: What’s the main trick to cooking game meats properly?
MH: Well, they’re a lot leaner than most farmed meats. So you have to cook it rare. But you still want that caramelized flavour – and you don’t want it raw. So you sear first, then cook at a low temperature. At the restaurant we use a grill and a sous-vide circulator. At Taste of Toronto we’ll use a grill and a slow oven.
C100B: The Antler project is fairly new. How are customers responding to the wild food concept?
MH: Wild foods are making a big comeback. When I started this, on my first menu I played it safe and included chicken and fish – but rabbit and deer were the most popular items. I swapped the chicken for Cornish hen and it still didn’t catch on…so, we’re sticking with [farmed] game!
At Taste of Toronto on Friday, June 24, two First Class cabin in-flight chefs from Etihad Airways and C100B editor Jacob Richler judged dishes from sixteen different participants at Taste of Toronto – and Michael Hunter’s venison came out tops – winning a trip to Abu Dhabi on Etihad this autumn.
Chef Hunter will be doing a cooking demonstration of how to prepare his roast venison at Taste of Toronto today at 3pm , on stage with Jacob Richler at the Etihad pavilion.