Chef creates gourmet game from kills

Restaurant serves up freshly shot birds

JACOB CHANDLER
Last updated 08:29 13/06/2014
Grant Dicker
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
PLEASANT STARTER: Mint Dining Room head chef Grant Dicker with a pheasant dish as part of the restaurant’s involvement in the New Zealand Gamebird Festival.

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Ducks stayed pretty safe when Mint Dining Room's Grant Dicker tried shooting, but the chef has the last say.

Duck is on the menu at the central Nelson restaurant as part of the New Zealand Gamebird Festival.

The festival, run by Fish and Game New Zealand, runs until July 27 and allows patrons to bring in their own game bird kill and have it prepared by chefs.

Mint Dining Room is the only restaurant taking part in the region and Dicker said he was excited to be involved.

"I just think it's something a bit different. Keeps it fresh," he said.

When previously working in Yorkshire in England, Dicker said it was "perfectly normal" to prepare game birds customers had brought in.

He said often restaurants in New Zealand would just stick to the basics: chicken, fish, lamb, beef or pork.

"It's easy to say you only have a couple things to play with. To throw something else in gives you a bit of a challenge."

Patrons are able to bring in any legally caught game bird and have it prepared as long as it is dressed and plucked.

Game birds, including anything from quail to black swans are welcome at the restaurant.

"If it's legal to shoot then we'd give it a go."

Dicker said he had been offering the service since the beginning of the festival in May but had not had a strong reaction due to low publicity in the region.

He said he heard from other restaurateurs who had a lot of game birds through in previous years.

A single duck, prepared at Mint, could serve three or four people for around $25 a head.

"It's the same amount of labour involved, just without the cost of the main ingredient."

He usually makes a confit from duck legs and cooks the breast separately. Dicker said he wanted to change people's predispositions about eating duck.

"Duck doesn't have to be dry or fatty."

Dicker has also managed to source a pheasant which he is preparing as a starter by braising the leg with ham hock and cooking the breast in a waterbath.

The biggest challenge, he said, was getting hold of a pheasant in Nelson.

"You can't really get it for love or money."

He had to wait for a local supplier to do a run down to Canter Valley Farms in Christchurch for the $50 bird.

The festival coincides with the hunting season between May and June. Hunters are required to hold a New Zealand Fish and Game bird licence.

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