We’re gathered around the back bar in John Bozeman’s Bistro, beer and wine in hand, eyeing the cauldron of antelope stew Chef Ty Hill has placed on the countertop. Ty grabs a white bowl from a stack, ladles in stew, and slides it to me. I pass it down the bar and he says, “This is made from the toughest part of the animal.” He pours another bowl. “And geez, don’t wait for me. Eat. Please.”
From my first bite, the toughest meat on the animal melts in my mouth like snow.
“What do you guys think?” Ty asks, only to hear the eager clicking of metal on porcelain as a reply. He laughs. “Well? Anyone? Give me something to work with here, guys.”
“You said that was the toughest meat?” I ask.
“Yep, sure is.”
“You’re a liar. I didn’t even chew it.”
He smiles. “Well, that was just the warm-up stuff,” he says. “We have about eight more courses to go.”
If you’ve ever tried to make reservations at John Bozeman’s Bistro on a Monday night and been shut down, this is why. Every week, Ty offers cooking classes: part classroom, part fine dining, part entertainment. Tonight, he’s showing us what wild game can do.
After cleaning every ounce of stew out of our bowls, we filter back into the kitchen where Ty is already hard at work mixing up the next course. Our group circles around as he mixes fresh-ground elk meat in a giant silver bowl. He adds a wad of Gorgonzola. His fingers still sticky with cheese, he adds a scoop of fresh pepper. His fingers still dirty with spice, he adds a pinch of Indian curry. His fingers still yellow, he looks up and says, “I don’t know, what do you guys want? Anything look good?”
Switching from the soon-to-be elk meatballs to a full quarter of whitetail deer, Ty wipes his hands on his apron, pares off a thick slice, and throws it in a hot pan, the meat crackling and steaming. “How hot should the frying pan be?” someone asks.
“Oh God, I dunno,” he says, flipping the steak and rubbing a hockey puck of butter on the blackened side. “Hot hot. Real hot. As hot as your stove can make it. I usually leave it on high and watch a quarter of football, then come back. It’s usually pretty close after that.”
He spins around to dice another cut of meat, sneaking slices of steak into his mouth like a kid passing notes in school.
Bringing the meat just in front of his lips, he closes his eyes and inhales hard, his shoulders pulling up while wind whistles up his nose. He lets out a little sigh and does it again. “See, you get a good sense of how it smells, and it’s gonna taste pretty much like that.”
As he passes a plate around the circle, we all nod and grunt in agreement, too busy inhaling the impossibly tasty meat to articulate a reply. “I didn’t know deer could taste this good!” someone exclaims between mouthfuls. More nods and grunts. Then Danielle, who didn’t even want to come due to her longstanding skepticism of deer meat, looks at her husband and says, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm: “If you don’t kill a deer this fall, don’t bother coming home.”
In one evening, Tyler prepares countless dishes, each one better than what came before. Carpaccio. Stir-fry. Meatloaf. Hamburgers. Meatballs. Seared cuts. Sirloin. Lavish dishes prepared with simple ingredients, cooked simply. Almost all from the same animal. At the end of the night, we all agree that we’ll never again waste our precious deer and elk meat by turning it into jerky. And that we’ll be back to re-learn all of Ty’s tips and tricks—and shamelessly stuff our faces in the back of John Bozeman’s Bistro.
To set up a wild-game cooking class of your own, call the Bistro at 587-4100.