Finding the right venue for your event may be challenging. It is often possible to hold your event(s) at the same location where your partner club regularly meets, or at a local restaurant, tavern or gastro-pub.
A local cooking school or restaurant that specializes in sustainable food may be willing to become a partner. In some situations, program managers have partnered with cooking schools in exchange for reserving a few class spaces for their students. Cooking schools have teaching kitchens that allow participants to actually cook their own food under the guidance of the instructor/chef. In addition, some high-end food stores have teaching kitchens that may be available.
If you are planning to allow your participants to prepare their own food, you will likely have to divide the group up into teams. The size and number of the teams is dependent on facility and class size. Cooking demonstrations are a good alternative if your facility does not have the space to allow participants to prepare their own food.
These events should be viewed as an incentive to attract individuals who might be interested in harvesting their own wild protein so that you can collect their contact information. The event(s) should be a fun, interesting and non-threatening way for a person interested in hunting or fishing to take a first step.
In addition to searching for networks to solicit participants, you also will need to find food-centric organizations such as farmer's markets, specialty restaurants, local craft brewers, cooking schools, etc. to become partners. These organizations may be helpful in promoting an event and even more importantly could provide locations, chefs or other important assets.
Once potential partners/networking groups are identified, a meeting should be arranged with them to go over your conceptual ideas, goals and objectives and the roles of various partners. Be clear from the start that your major objective is to use these events to recruit people who are interested in learning more about personally obtaining sustainable, wild food.
In most cases, your partnering organization will send out all the announcements and assist with making the logistic arrangements.
It is important to remember that the people you are trying to recruit are likely going to be different from traditional hunting and fishing participants. Their motivations for acquiring wholesome/organic food in a sustainable manner are also likely different from traditional hunting and fishing participants. Learn more at “Understanding Food Motivated New Hunters.”
Because you want to use these events to recruit people as eventual participants in hunting and fishing training programs, it is critical to have a list of intermittent “next steps” developed and available. It is important to continue the relationship you have established with participants so you can assist them when they are ready to take additional steps to become a hunter or angler.
While planning your event, make sure that you check local health department regulations about bringing in and/or cooking non-USDA inspected meat and fish into licensed food service facilities. In some situations, the food may need to be prepared off-site and “catered” into the location for consumption.
Identifying and coordinating with your chef well in advance will help eliminate any last minute surprises. Your chef may know of (or even own) facilities that will meet their cooking requirements, as well as be able to host the event.
In many situations, a local chef with experience cooking wild food may need to be hired. In other situations, a local chef may donate their time. In virtually all cases, the chef’s expenses for food, materials, supplies, and travel will need to be reimbursed.
A small fee could be charged to attend the event. This is particularly true if the food is being paired with local wine or craft beer. If the event is sold out, a waiting list should be established. This list could be used to promote future events.
Often the partnering club (rather than a state agency) will collect the fee. This arrangement may reduce agency reporting and paperwork. However, program planners should discuss their plans with agency federal aid coordinators to make sure the handling of funds collected is done within program guidelines. A clear, written agreement about the use of collected fees should be in place if a partnering organization is collecting the fees. In addition, clear descriptions of set-up, takedown, wait-staff, and cleanup roles and responsibilities should be developed with partnering organizations.
Participants are likely curious about eating game or fish, or may be attending simply to learn how to cook fish or game. As a result, food sample selections should be kept relatively simple and straightforward. Game or fish may be “exotic” enough for this audience, so specialty cuts or preparations may not be necessary.
Most will not be anglers, hunters or chefs. However, most will have basic to moderate cooking skills and are more interested in learning about how to prepare a particular type of game or fish rather than about cooking in general.
If possible, have people pre-register with your partner organization so you have an accurate idea of how many will be attending. Often the facilities you are using will have limits on group size. It is advisable to start relatively small and learn how to efficiently organize and run these events. Twelve to fifteen attendees is an ideal class size to start. Events should be limited to two to three hours. Set-up and takedown time and advance food preparation are not included in this estimate.
Identify the types of food you will be offering and source(s) for the meat early in your planning process. Make sure you have enough to feed the group, or limit the group size to meet your supply of food.
Providing some samples of the meat to your chef well in advance of the event will allow them to experiment with preparation and presentation.
If your event is a cooking class, rather than a fish/game tasting, we recommend that it be focused on a single species and/or cut of meat. In many instances an appetizer and main course is prepared in each class session.
Regardless of the menu, time should be built into the program to share the food prepared with the participants. The food consumption aspect of the course will likely require additional material and supplies, as well as set up and cleanup.
Screening questionnaires for the attendees are recommended to identify those who may be interested in taking your “how-to” hunt or fish programs. The questionnaires used should be as brief and to the point as possible and focus on judging their interest in attending a “how-to” class. Get their contact information and ask only enough simple “yes/no” questions to determine if they are a fit for future programs.
Make sure you collect contact information so follow-up contacts can be made. Your partner organization may have everyone’s contact information from the reservation process. If not, collecting business cards is an easy way to get this information. Door prize drawings are a great way to collect business cards. Door prizes should be geared to the audience to maximize participation.