At the top of his game
Marta Jacyna talks to Jose Souto, senior lecturer at the Culinary Arts Westminster Kingsway College, a BASC Food Ambassador and demonstrator chef for Taste of Game.
As a BASC Food Ambassador, you may have seen Jose Souto in our Shooting and Conservation magazine promoting game meat to the general public.
What really needs telling though, is Jose’s enthusiasm for shooting and game; his greatest passions are falconry and stalking:
“I am lucky to have a varied history of fieldsports. While on holiday in southern Spain, my uncle introduced me to game shooting. This included trips shooting quail, partridge and pigeon at first, with later trips on rabbits. A lot of what we did was rough shooting and flushing game with dogs.
Back in the UK, I found it difficult to get into shooting as I had no one around me that was involved in the shooting world, so I chose another path that had captivated me for years – falconry.”
Together with his wife Charlotte, they now have a collection of over 50 birds of prey, including his two favourite hunting partners, a Brookie peregrine, Amigo and a female Finnish goshawk, Sophia.
Image by Steve Lee
“I also started getting into deer stalking about 15 years ago through Mike Collins, a senior deer ranger at Epping Forest. Later, I met Julian Stoyel, who was the head deer park manager and stalker at Holkham Hall and now at Houghton Hall, both fantastic mentors into the deer world.
“By the time I came to do my DSC1, some five years later, I had quite a lot of knowledge about deer. Every stalker should complete the DSC1 course; it really is good practice and is a good grounding for all things deer related.”
Jose does quite a lot of game shooting too, often accompanied by a good friend, and world-renowned photographer Steve Lee. They’ve collaborated to produce two of the books mentioned earlier and are currently planning a third book on preparing and cooking rabbit, hares and other game.
Jose never planned a career as a chef, although he had a love of cooking and was encouraged by his family.
“I remember my first attempt at cooking game. My uncles asked me to prepare a paella with wild rabbit after a day’s shooting. I made a complete hash of it! I didn’t give it enough time to cook, so it was tough and not good at all. Afterwards, my uncles showed me exactly what to do and it was a fantastic dish.”
Rabbit also featured in another traditional Spanish recipe, conejo al ajillo (rabbit with garlic), which became his absolute favourite.
“It’s such a simple and delicious recipe. I used it in one of the very first Taste of Game leaflets.”
Jose decided to go to Westminster College and train to become a chef specialising in game.
“I don’t understand people’s argument against shooting and eating game, especially in comparison to the production of domestic poultry. It might come from a lack of understanding and misinformation.
“BASC is leading the way in trying to educate people. We have to remember, without game, there is no shooting, and without shooting, there is no game. The end product of shooting is a fantastically flavoursome and wonderful food source that we need to use and embrace.
“I agreed to become a BASC Food Ambassador because I want everyone to understand and use game meat.” He would love to see all the shooting organisations unite and promote game. It would mean having a stronger, louder voice.
“We all have an interest in shooting and the harvest of game continuing in this country. Therefore, we should all look to work together to keep shooting safe. The danger of shooting being banned because of bad practice is very real. We need to guard against that with education and unity.
“We all need to remember that, whether it’s game shooting, stalking, falconry or ferreting, the main aspect is the same – hunting for meat. Our focus should be on what unites us, instead of the things dividing us. Shooting is the purest form of harvest – going out into the countryside and harvesting a natural product.
“What others think about us depends wholly on what we do and how we manage ourselves. If we lose, it will be our fault for not acting now. We have to become more proactive in our approach.”
Finally, Jose stressed the crucial importance of controlling the population of wild deer to keep numbers at sustainable levels as a BASC Food Ambassador.
“We are the custodians of our natural environment and we need to take this responsibility seriously or risk our natural landscapes disappearing completely…”