Interview with Corey Fair, Butcher and Baker

I was fortunate enough to be able to get an interview from Corey Fair, owner of a website dedicated to all things foodie. Aside from being a nice guy he is a born and bred hunter as well. Check out the whole interview below. Sections from this will be published in the Boise Weekly in an upcoming feature about wild game meat processing.

Butcher and Baker

Randy King (Q): Tell me about Butcher and Baker?

Corey Fair (A): I started working on Butcher & Baker back in 2006. I was frustrated that there wasn’t really anything on the market that reflected my lifestyle as a chef and food enthusiast, and I knew there was a large market out there of hunters, home cooks, bbq enthusiasts, bartenders, etc., that all shared the same likes, but didn’t really have anywhere to go that was for them. We want great ingredients in everything we do, not just in the kitchen, so we took that philosophy and applied it to streetwear, home goods, and pro goods. Thus B&B was born.

Q: What trends are you finding in wild game butchery?

A: I’m starting to see a movement towards learning how to use all of the various cuts in better ways. When I was growing up, it was pretty much back strap, roast, and stew. Now you have guys like Jesse Morris at Killerchefs creating dishes like Teal Tom Yum Soup, Duck Gumbo, or Sous Vide Goose. Experimenting with all of these types of cooking methods mean you really have to know how to break down the animal and what cuts go best where and with what technique. This is good because it means in the long run people will become more familiar with Wild Game and more willing to utilize the natural bounty that their areas have to offer.

Q: What is your favorite wild game (open ended, sorry) to butcher?

A: I grew up on White Tail, Antelope, and Axis, so I’ll always be partial to that, but I’d like to get my hands on a bison.

Q: What is your history with wild game? Eating, cooking, butchering ect.

A: I was raised on it. We had a few Quarter Horse ranches and a wild game ranch that my dad worked. Every hunting season we were there, wether it was Quail, Duck, Turkey, Deer, or Wild Boar, we hunted it, broke it down ourselves, cooked it, and lived off of it.

Q: What do you think of this new wave of foodies turned hunters? Is it a trend or a new way of life?

A: I hate when great things are labeled as trends, especially when it comes to the “foodie” movement.  I prefer to think of it as a time when people are hungry for more knowledge and a better way of living. There’s nothing wrong with that. At their core, every hunter and chef is a foodie. We all appreciate and want better products, we want to know how to best use them, and we want to get back to a better way of life. Sure, there are some food snobs out there that I wouldn’t want to be at the table with, but they have their place in the world. If it’s moving the ball down the field and helping people to understand the lifestyle we chefs and hunters have enjoyed, then it’s all good to me. To answer your question though, I think for many it will be a new way of life, and for some, they’ll do it for a while and move on. I’ll welcome the new ones and wish the best to those that found it wasn’t really for them.

Q: Jackson Landers or Hank Shaw? Debate…

A: I think they both have their place and are both unique. Hank is definitely golden in the kitchen and in the garden, and Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge about hunting and the topic of preservation. If the two of them do a hunt and a dinner together, I’ll buy a ticket.

(I completely agree. A double ticket would be great!) 

Q: What is your favorite new cookbook?

A: The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat. Joshua Applestone is doing a lot for the industry and educating a whole new generation of butchers and home cooks that want to learn the art of whole animal utilization and sourcing better quality, responsibly raised meats.

Q: What about your favorite gun?

A: The Marlin 336XLR. I like the lever action and have always been a fan of .30-.30 since my father started me on them in my second hunting season as a kid.

I know that I am a Born Hunter, but am I Born to Run?

I am in current possession of one of the strangest things a chef can ever own…a sun tan. Being an inside at the stove sort of occupation the amount of daylight that a chef normally sees is about the equivalent to a submarine captain. Negligible at best, and when we both do see sun it is on vacation and we get burned.

That said I have started this happy go lucky hobby of running at lunch while at work. Sometimes I will even haul around my 50# hunting pack in the blazing sun. Now, since it is like smoking a half pack a day in Boise I have started running in the morning near my house. Each time I go out it is different. The rout, the amount of time I spend running, my speed…all variables are variable. I have even started reading about running (shocking…it is not a book about cooking, philosophy or hunting…honestly I wasn’t even sure what the other sections of the bookstore where for). I am currently tearing through Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. Smile while running seems amazingly simple, but I never thought about it before. I was always thinking a guy should smile when they are DONE running.   

hammering the road

The dog now licks my face at 6am for a run; her tail loudly smacking wall and disturbing the whole rest of the house. These actions combined have given me, for the first time in 15 years brown freckle spotted shoulders and back. A visible tan line at my boxer shorts.

So why this big kick on fitness you might ask?

Last hunting season I wounded a buck at about 75 yards with an unfamiliar gun, my Dads neighbors 45/70. Five days later I could see him limping around on a side hill. I had traded to my .243 and was doing my best to catch up with him. The two other bucks he was with split off and left him to hobble up a canyon. I could catch him if I ran fast enough.

So I tossed my pack on and booked it down the hill as quick as I could. We caught a sight of each other at about 100 yards. He was broadside on a shale surface, I was standing in the middle of 2 foot high scrub brush. I pulled my gun up on him and the strangest thing happened. The buck was coming and going out of my scope. My chest was heaving and I could not hold a steady aim on the animal. I was so winded from a 400 yard dash for a shot that I could not even make a clean kill.

I laid down to shoot him. Too much cover. I tried finding a rest, not a tree in sight. Nothing I could do but steady myself as much as possible and try for a shot. I missed and then missed again.

The buck scurried off and I never saw him again. Hopefully he has made a full recovery and I can get him on a later date. But being given the gift of finding the same animal that you previously wounded and then not being able to put it down is humiliating. So shockingly bad that I have suffered a lack of confidence in my shooting skills since. I still don’t feel like I can shoot well enough.

I have done two things to help make sure that what happened in 2011 will never happen again. Thing 1 – I bought a shooting stick I shoot off it when I can and am better for it. Thing 2 – I now work on my sun tan with running.

I can now run 6 miles at a time and have vowed to never have the same issue while hunting again. Being given the gift of three shots on the same animal and simply wounding him will not happen again.