Texas chef Jesse Griffiths is passionate about cooking wild game and sourcing local ingredients for Dai Due, his nationally renowned restaurant in Austin. He is also an enthusiastic advocate for hunting.

“With the rise of the local food movement, a lot of people have come to understand that hunting is another branch of food sourcing, which is exactly what it is,” said Jesse.

Photos by Jeff Wilson

Jesse took up hunting as an adult and is now sharing his knowledge with others. Besides co-owning Dai Due, which was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit magazine in 2015, Jesse is lead instructor for the New School of Traditional Cookery, which promotes responsible use of our wild natural resources through butchery classes and field experiences that combine hunting and fishing outings with cooking instruction.

“I want to help people make the connection between the outdoors – fishing, hunting, foraging – and food. Great healthy, natural food. Through our school, we hope to empower people to get the most out of their outdoor experiences and show that it can be an everyday part of life.”

Jesse is also an author. His first book, Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, was published in 2012 and was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award. His second book, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Pigs was published in 2021.

“After we started Dai Due and the New School of Traditional Cookery, I realized that the curiosity around hogs was profound. It would dominate any conversation about game cooking. There are a lot of myths and mistaken beliefs surrounding pigs and a real deficit of information.”

Jesse compiled answers to the questions he’s fielded about pigs, and over the course of several years, he had enough information for a book. The book is a comprehensive overview of all things related to wild pigs, from field to table, and has been incredibly well-received. Jesse was sitting under a tree turkey hunting in the Hill Country last spring when his girlfriend called him to tell him that the book had been nominated for a James Beard Media Award in 2022.

“I about lost my mind. It was a huge, unexpected honor to be nominated again, especially for such a Texas-centric hunting book. It really blew me away.”

And then, he won! The book was honored with the 2022 James Beard Media Award in the single subject category. The recognition comes at a time when the interest in hunting seems to be growing.

“Texas historically has been a place where hunting is very important. I’ve noticed that young hunters and new hunters who are not necessarily young people are getting into it now for all the right reasons. They understand it is a great way to put good food on the table, and that hunting benefits conservation and the wildlife itself. There’s been a surge of acceptance and curiosity around hunting, and that’s a good thing.”

While Jesse’s hunting experiences began later in his life, he’s been fishing and camping since he was a child. His parents took him to Texas State Parks when he was a baby, and he grew up visiting parks across the state. In fact, he spent his 21st birthday a lot differently than some of his hard-partying restaurant colleagues might have: fishing and camping at Pedernales Falls State Park.

So, it is fitting that Jesse is commemorating the centennial anniversary of Texas State Parks as a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is a steadfast supporter of the things we cherish, and if I am asked to help spread the word about conservation, I’m all in.”

Find out how you can live the wild life.

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