Catching up with Chef Michael Hunter, TL Insider’s chef-in-residence for October
TL Insider’s chef-in-residence for October is a passionate hunter and a popular restaurateur. In 2018, Michael Hunter of Antler Kitchen and Bar appeared in the social-media feeds of Torontonians when he butchered a deer in front of a group of startled vegan protesters, and the video soon went viral. Meat eaters in and around Toronto backed the chef, and the restaurant was flooded with support for the chef.
Two years later, Hunter is all geared up to launch his upcoming book The Hunter Chef Cookbook: Hunt, Fish, and Forage in Over 100 Recipes, a dream he has been curating for the past decade. We caught up with him to learn about common myths around veganism and hunting, and what he has in store for TL Insiders as this month’s chef-in-residence.
How long have you been writing this book?
This book has been a decade-long dream of mine. It came even before the idea of having a restaurant of my own. When I first started my foray into hunting, a lot of my family and friends were interested in the subject; I wanted to inspire people, and the best way I thought of doing that was by coming up with a book. I love photography, and I started documenting all my shooting experiences. In hindsight, I think I was working toward this book without any strategic aim.
Eventually, I met my business partner Jody Shapiro, who is an accomplished photographer and a film director. We both shared a love for cooking, and that’s how the idea of Antler came in the picture.
What are common myths about hunting?
That there’s trophy hunting in Canada. I think hunters have a very poor reputation around the world—a few people ruined it for the rest of us. Hunters here aren’t killing animals for fun. People kill animals in this country for food, by law. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what people hunt, and I think it’s unfortunate when people look down on hunters—ironically, sometimes even the meat eaters do it.
And what are the myths about veganism?
I don’t think it’s healthy for everyone. Even at the restaurants, we have a lot of respect for vegetarians and vegans—we are more than happy to accommodate everyone, but for me personally, I have tried vegan cleanses and certain vegan diets to see if it suited my body, and I don’t think it worked.
Did the 2018 controversy shape the narrative of the book?
No, not at all. In fact, I regret that I didn’t have the book available during that time because of the insane media attention I got.
What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
There are a few venison recipes and dessert recipes in the book that I love. But it’s really hard to say what my favourite dish is because anything that’s in season and local just tastes so great.
You’ll be hosting a cooking class for TL Insiders on October 20. What do you have planned?
I’m planning to share a pickerel recipe from my book. I’ll teach the Insiders how to perfectly sear fish when cooking at home. There’s also a fun and versatile homemade tartar sauce, so I’ll demonstrate the basics of making a perfect aioli base as well. Members can order all the ingredients for the dish directly from TL Insider’s Chef Pantry and have it delivered right to their homes.
What are your favourite Toronto restaurants?
Oh god! There are so many. Labora and Canoe
Most underrated ingredient in the kitchen?
I think onions and carrots, they serve as a base in a lot of our sauces.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
A good blender, a sharp knife and a good iron pan.
Register for a virtual Pickerel Masterclass with chef Michael Hunter on October 20 here.