You kill it, these hotels will cook it

If you sometimes wonder where the food served at a hotel restaurant comes from, you might want to check out one of the programs I profiled for CNBC Road Warrior where the on-site chef will cook up what guests catch, shoot or forage.

Me? I think I’m going to try the forage option.


Courtesy Turkey Trot Acres

Farm-to-table meals have become so popular that hotels are now getting in the game with an even closer-to-the-source experience by offering chef-prepared meals using food hooked, foraged or shot by their guests.

You might visit Turkey Trot Acres in Candor, New York, for a wedding reception, reunion, barbecue or zombie-fest, but wild turkey hunting in the spring and fall is what this upstate lodge is best known for.

Turkey Trot specializes in three-day guided hunting packages that start at $1,200 and include single-bed rooms, meals and guides. And while not everyone bags a turkey, those who do usually pose proudly with their bird before it goes into the cooler.

“Turkey Trot will clean the turkey for you, package it and tell you how to cook it. And if you want it prepared for dinner, they’ll do that too,” said Marlin Watkins, a well-known turkey call maker from southeast Ohio who’s been a regular at the lodge for the past 25 years.

“But when you harvest a wild turkey it’s such an event that most people would rather take it home to show off to their friends and family. I’ve seen a lot of turkeys go home in the back of a Cadillac,” Watkins said.

Next winter, Viceroy Snowmass, near Aspen, Colorado, will be adding a “you kill/we cook” option to its menu of hotel activities. From Nov. 8 to Jan. 18, guests will be able to hunt for pheasant, duck and goose—but not turkey—with guides from the Aspen Outfitting Company. The hotel’s executive chef, Will Nolan, will show guests how he breaks down the game and then prepares it for a meal. The cost: $2,200, not including accommodations.

“Guests are constantly looking for ways to get closer to their food, and I can’t think of a more intimate experience,” said Nolan. “The most memorable meals are those that you actually have a part in creating, so this fits the bill in a number of exciting ways.”

Michigan’s Catch & Cook program, a joint project of a half dozen public agencies and commercial associations, connects charter fishing clients and charter boat operators in the state’s Great Lakes region with about 50 restaurants, many of them linked to hotels and inns, which will cook and serve the day’s catch.

The program began in 2012 and has reeled in a net full of economic benefits.

“Distinctive experiences like Catch & Cook are likely to be told and retold,” said Jordan Burroughs, a wildlife outreach specialist at Michigan State University. Charter boat businesses benefit through positive word-of-mouth, restaurants get added business during the early afternoon—a traditionally slower and less profitable part of the day—”and communities benefit when visitors extend their stay, supporting local restaurants and presumably, other local businesses,” Burroughs said.

In Florida, the Hyatt Regency Sarasota has a “You Catch ‘Em, We’ll Cook ‘Em” offer for visiting anglers, including those who dock at the hotel’s 32-slip marina. For $40 per person, the chef at the Hyatt’s Currents Restaurant will grill, blacken, sear or pan fry a fisherman’s cleaned and filleted catch and serve it up with soup or salad, sides of fresh vegetables, other accompaniments and dessert.

A similar program, called “Hook N’ Cook,” is offered at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral, Florida. There, chefs at two onsite dining venues will prepare a guest’s freshly-caught and cleaned fillet for a typical plate fee of $15, with other menu items included with the meal at an additional cost, said Stefanie Eakin, the Westin resort’s marketing manager.

Nita Lake Lodge_foraging

Courtesy Nita Lake Lodge

Each Wednesday morning during September and October, guests may go foraging for wild and edible plants, shoots, lichens and mushrooms with the executive chef of Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, British Columbia.

Wednesday evenings, those same guests can dine with their fellow foragers on a five-course meal using the ingredients plucked that morning in the Whistler Valley. Tickets are $70 per person, plus tax, for the foraging foray and the dinner.

The class spends a great deal of time talking about and studying false or deadly look-a-likes. “All amateur foragers learn a key rule,” said Paul Moran, the executive chef at the lodge’s Aura Restaurant, “When trying to identify wild plants and mushrooms, even if you are 99 percent sure something is edible, if you still have 1 percent of doubt, it’s not worth eating.”

Bow hunting at the airport? Yup!

Bowhunting - from Library of Congress, via Flickr Commons

From Library of Congress, via Flickr Commons



Passengers can’t take guns, knives or other weapons on airplanes, but starting next month, 157 hunters will get licenses to bow hunt for deer on land owned by Pittsburgh International Airport.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority created the pilot program in response to a request from two state officials on behalf of constituents who attended a town meeting and expressed interest in hunting on airport-owned acreage.

“We have a rich hunting tradition here in western Pennsylvania,” said State Sen. Matt Smith, one of the program’s proponents. “The area around the airport is fairly rural and has a rich potential for game that is sought after by hunters.”

Like most airports, Pittsburgh International has a wildlife management effort to avoid hazards on from birds, deer and other wildlife.

“While there is currently no animal problem at the airport, if left uncontrolled, an overpopulation on remote land owned by the airport could eventually become a problem,” said airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny.

A large swath of land around the airport was once available for recreation and hunting, but two years ago signs prohibiting trespassing went up.

“Not even bird-watchers could go out there,” said Jerry Gileot, a hunter who lives near the airport. “We were able to get it open for this year for bow hunting and hopefully for other activities in the future.”

The airport worked out the pilot with local hunting groups, and this year about 2,362 acres of remote airport property will be open for bow hunting, with licenses awarded by lottery. More than 2,500 people have applied so far, with some requests coming from as far away as Texas, Utah and Florida.

“The locals are laughing about that,” Gileot said. “If those hunters think there’s a big buck behind every tree here, they’ll be really disappointed.”

There won’t be any charge for permits the first year, Smith said. “It’s simply for the benefit of individual hunters. But because there is a cost to the airport to operate the program, we may try to be creative and this as a way to generate revenue to avoid putting the onus on taxpayers.”

This year’s bow hunting season runs from Oct. 15 through Jan. 11, 2014. Applications can be submitted through Sept. 22 at

Pittsburgh isn’t the only airfield with a hunting program. In 2012, after a moratorium of several years, Minnesota’s St. Cloud Regional Airport began allowing hunting for whitetail deer on 170 acres.

People pay $10 to enter a lottery for seven permits, and winners must pay an additional $5. This year St. Cloud received 79 applications for the season, which started last Saturday.

Bow hunters there have to follow a number of specific rules, including removing all entrails and disposing of them properly. The city also provides information on donating the meat if hunters aren’t going to eat it.

“I had a meeting with the seven permit winners to go over the process,” said airport manager Bill Towle, “I had them sign a paper saying they understand the rules and I told them they have to all get along out there.”

( My story about bow hunting at the Pittsburgh and St. Cloud airports first appeared on the CNBC Road Warrior )