Hosting a Fish/Game Dinner/Event
A fish/game dinner is a social event held in the evening allowing attendees to sample a selection of wild game or fish. The food samples are often paired with a local wine or craft beer. A fish and wildlife agency representative might give a short presentation about the species on the menu, wildlife/fisheries management, sustainability, and the local recreational opportunities.
Often, this event serves as the “theme” of a professional or civic group’s regular monthly meeting. Young professionals clubs are excellent opportunities to get in front of young, affluent people who might be interested in sustainable food.
Typically, a chef may prepare the food in advance or right at the event depending on the menu and the venue. If any cooking is being done at the event, it offers an opportunity for participants to observe. However, these events are generally not designed to provide cooking instruction.
For the purposes of this discussion, hosting a fish/game dinner is strictly a means to attract and recruit potential participants for your “learn-to-hunt” or “learn-to-fish” programs. It is a marketing tool to engage with attendees, collect their contact information and reach out to them later when there are openings in an adult hunter/angler training program.
In general, agencies are very good at implementing events such as fish/game dinners. As a result, the following sections will focus on special implementation and planning considerations, rather than the full spectrum of planning and implementation steps necessary for these events.
Think of a fish/game dinner/event as bait to attract individuals who might be interested in harvesting protein themselves, so that you can collect their contact information. It’s a numbers game. If you partner with a local organization with 500 members and get 100 of them to attend a fish/game dinner/event, then later you successfully attract 30 of them to take a hunter/angler training program. You win. The wild fish or game dinner/event is a fun, interesting and non-threatening way for a person interested in hunting or fishing to take a first step.
The best place to find new, food-motivated adults who might take up hunting or fishing is the urban areas where they live and work. There are certain to be several in your area. Pick a city for your event, such as Urbandale. You don’t have the time or money to reach out to everyone in Urbandale but there are already numerous networks in place there that could be potential partners in your effort.
Search the web for terms such as “Urbandale young professionals network,” “Urbandale Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals,” “Urbandale hiking club,” etc. This should result in several organizations for you to approach. An excellent example of the results of a quick Internet search is: Seattle Networking Guide.
Take a look at the websites of the clubs that you discover. The best candidates will be organizations related to food, sustainability, wine, outdoor activities, etc. Or at least clubs that sponsor fun, social events like barbecues and softball games.
In addition to searching for clubs, you will need to find food-centric organizations such as farmer's markets, specialty restaurants, local craft brewers, wineries, farm-to-table groups, cooking schools, etc. 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. You should very clearly state one of your objectives 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 (e.g., The Urbandale Young Professionals) will send out all the announcements and assist with making the logistical arrangements.
If possible, have people pre-register with your partner organization so you have an accurate idea of how much food to prepare. It is advisable to start relatively small and learn how to efficiently organize and run these events. Because these events are largely social, they can be kept relatively short. Two hours is ideal. Set-up and takedown time and advance food preparation are not considered part of the event for timing purposes.
Remember, participants of these events are curious about eating game or fish, or may be attending for some completely unrelated reason such as professional networking. 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.
Identify the types of your 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/fish to your chef well in advance of the event will allow them to experiment with preparation and presentation. It is generally recommended to offer numerous "tasting" dishes, involving several different species rather than a lot of only a few food offerings. The dishes prepared should have labels to identify the species and possibly the preparation.