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Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation
Ambassadors

Jesse Griffiths

Chef and Co-Owner of Dai Due

Man standing in his kitchen.

Griffiths in his kitchen.

Photograph by Jeff Wilson

Meet Jesse Griffiths

Texas chef Jesse Griffiths is passionate about cooking wild game and sourcing local ingredients for Dai Due, his nationally renowned restaurant in Austin. He is also an enthusiastic advocate for hunting.

“With the rise of the local food movement, a lot of people have come to understand that hunting is another branch of food sourcing, which is exactly what it is,” said Jesse.

Jesse took up hunting as an adult and is now sharing his knowledge with others. Besides co-owning Dai Due, which was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit magazine in 2015, Jesse is lead instructor for the New School of Traditional Cookery, which promotes responsible use of our wild natural resources through butchery classes and field experiences that combine hunting and fishing outings with cooking instruction.

“I want to help people make the connection between the outdoors – fishing, hunting, foraging – and food. Great healthy, natural food. Through our school, we hope to empower people to get the most out of their outdoor experiences and show that it can be an everyday part of life.”

– Jesse Griffiths

Jesse is also an author. His first book, Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, was published in 2012 and was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award. His second book, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Pigs was published in 2021.

“After we started Dai Due and the New School of Traditional Cookery, I realized that the curiosity around hogs was profound. It would dominate any conversation about game cooking. There are a lot of myths and mistaken beliefs surrounding pigs and a real deficit of information.”

Jesse compiled answers to the questions he’s fielded about pigs, and over the course of several years, he had enough information for a book. The book is a comprehensive overview of all things related to wild pigs, from field to table, and has been incredibly well-received. Jesse was sitting under a tree turkey hunting in the Hill Country last spring when his girlfriend called him to tell him that the book had been nominated for a James Beard Media Award in 2022.

“I about lost my mind. It was a huge, unexpected honor to be nominated again, especially for such a Texas-centric hunting book. It really blew me away.”

And then, he won! The book was honored with the 2022 James Beard Media Award in the single subject category. The recognition comes at a time when the interest in hunting seems to be growing.

“Texas historically has been a place where hunting is very important. I’ve noticed that young hunters and new hunters who are not necessarily young people are getting into it now for all the right reasons. They understand it is a great way to put good food on the table, and that hunting benefits conservation and the wildlife itself. There’s been a surge of acceptance and curiosity around hunting, and that’s a good thing.”

While Jesse’s hunting experiences began later in his life, he’s been fishing and camping since he was a child. His parents took him to Texas State Parks when he was a baby, and he grew up visiting parks across the state. In fact, he spent his 21st birthday a lot differently than some of his hard-partying restaurant colleagues might have: fishing and camping at Pedernales Falls State Park.

So, it is fitting that Jesse is commemorating the centennial anniversary of Texas State Parks as a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is a steadfast supporter of the things we cherish, and if I am asked to help spread the word about conservation, I’m all in.”

Jesse Griffiths has been a trend-setter in the Austin restaurant scene for more
than a decade. Radio and podcast host Cecilia Nasti has been following sustainable
food trends in Central Texas for years. We caught up with both of them
recently for a culinary conversation.

Listen in on our latest podcast.

Q&A with Jesse Griffiths

Q: Why do you think Dai Due has struck such a chord in Austin and beyond?

Fresher is better, and people can taste the difference. The idea for locally sourced food really resonated in Texas because of tradition. No matter what culture you are from here in Texas, the way your grandparent cooked is meaningful.  One of the traditions we’re connecting to is hunting and fishing. Hunting, fishing, the farmer’s market, raising chickens in your own back yard are all kind of the same thing to me. People want to know where their food is coming from.

Q: Have you always hunted and fished?

I grew up fishing and have fished as long as I can remember. Hunting was new to me and I took it up in 2006 when Dai Due began working with only locally sourced food. What could be more local than hunting and fishing? So, I got out there with friends who are hunters and learned how to hunt. I made my own mistakes and learned from them.

Q: What was the reaction from your nonhunting friends?

The reaction has been surprisingly good. To this day I don’t think I’ve gotten much in the way of hate mail or whatever you want to call it in modern internet terms. Austin was at least willing to listen. People have a very preconceived notion of what hunting or hunters are like, and as I’ve said repeatedly, hunting culture gets mixed up too much with gun culture, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Q: Through Dai Due’s New School of Traditional Cookery you now offer courses that offer a culinary experience that includes hunting or fishing. What has the response been?

It’s been great. I’m really drawn to the education part of it. Coming to hunting a little bit later in life has contributed positively to me being able to convey that to new hunters. Because I remember and it is really fresh in my memory what it was like to learn.

I also appreciate bringing a culinary perspective to hunting. I think some hunters have misconceptions when it comes to food. There’s certain myths and misconceptions about edibility of certain things, be it the belly meat of venison, or feral hogs in general. People were told: you can’t do that, you can’t eat that, that’s no good. But to the contrary, it is good and can be great. So, I’ve really taken a lot of enjoyment in showing the old- school hunters what they might be missing, and at same time taking the new hunters and exposing them to hunting, gathering their own food, being part of it, and that’s been enthralling, too. To me that’s what hunting and fishing are all about, it’s catching dinner and feeding families. It can be done on a budget, it can be done no matter who you are or where you are in this state. And I think just getting that information out there and making it available to everyone is empowering.

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