This weekend the Yukon Fish and Game Association (YFGA) is hosting their annual Wild Game Banquet at the High Country Inn. The event will include the usual camaraderie as well as the awards from the Big Bull Night, which took place in November, a silent auction, and a feast of Yukon harvested wild game.
Cocktails will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m. Chef Brian Smith at the High Country Inn and his team will be leading the culinary effort with support from Yukon College Culinary staff and students, and Chef Troy King from Inn on the lake.
The facts of the event are this: it is a fundraiser to support the Yukon Fish and Game Association as well as conservation attempts around the territory. It is the awards show, at which time local hunters are awarded their respective placings for harvesting the largest three of each species for the year. The scores are taken for specimens submitted on the Big Bull Night in November. It is an annual event that has been growing in popularity and has been attended by a sold out crowd for the last couple years.
For members it can be much more. It can be one of the most awaited events of the winter. It is an evening when you will only encounter people with a shared love of the Yukon hunting tradition and a passion for the outdoors. It’s a time to swap stories, trade lies, and ultimately, to settle for the year any discussion over who has bragging rights for the past season.
There isn’t a single recipient of the handcrafted hunting knife or golden YFGA belt buckle, that isn’t proud of the accomplishment. This is also a feast to celebrate the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that we as Yukoners are lucky enough to enjoy to such an extent. Members provide the spoils of their hunting and fishing year, and in turn are treated to an expertly prepared and catered meal celebrating wild game and all of its attributes.
For the chefs, it is an opportunity to create dishes using ingredients usually banned from their commercial kitchens. For both sides of the room it is a unique moment to come together and celebrate the thrill of the chase, the product of a well harvested season, and the community inside our community.
This will be Chef Brian Smith’s third year cooking the Wild Game Banquet, and he said that this year will be the most exciting menu, yet.
“Gord Zealand and I naturally clicked,” Smith said. “I truly love the Yukon, and immediately this banquet was something I wanted to do.”
Because all the wild game is donated by members of the YFGA, the menu is largely dependent on what was harvested the previous season. “This year it was more of a wish list – what do you want to cook,” Smith said.
Attendees this year will be lucky enough to sample moose, bison, elk, caribou, porcupine, as well as game birds like grouse. “The big one off for me is lynx,” Smith said.
Although at publication time Smith was still finalizing the menu, he said that porcupine gyoza and some sort of local fish and game sausage ravioli will be on the menu this year. As far as seafood goes, Smith is excited about what he has to offer. “We’ve got arctic char from the Beaufort Sea, coho salmon from Haines Alaska, burbot, and I think we’re even getting dungeness crab. This year will be one of the most exciting banquets we’ve put out.”
Smith seems truly excited to work with not only his team, who he describes as “one of the most amazing teams I’ve worked with,” but also the chef instructors and students from the Yukon College. He talks animatedly about working as a team to finalize the menu for this year’s banquet, as well as the foodies in the Yukon that come out to support this event. “It’s a lot of people who love food, a lot of people who love to hunt and fill their freezers and their families’ freezers, as opposed to (wanting) a pair of horns on their walls.”
For this year’s banquet the team are planning on updating the dessert offerings. If it all goes to plan there will be a station offering house made ice creams using local, and Yukon inspired ingredients.
“This event has really put itself on the map when it comes to the local food culture,” Smith said.
The Wild Game Banquet this year has been sold out since December, but anyone out there who was lucky enough to get tickets will be in for what sounds like a shaker of a party, and a genuinely unique and inspiring Yukon-centric culinary event.
For more information about Yukon College Culinary Arts program check out www.yukoncollege.yk.ca/programs/culinary-arts