Friday, September 5, 2008

An Interview with The Sporting Chef, Scott Leysath

If you Google the name ‘Scott Leysath’ you will be quick to discover that most consider him America’s premier wild game chef. But as I turned into Scott’s neighborhood in the quiet, middle class cul-de-sac in Folsom, California you would scratch your head and wonder if you had followed your Map Quest directions correctly.

As I rang the bell and waited for Scott and the obvious gang of hounds to answer the door, I recalled in my mind the last time I talked with him and how it didn’t surprise me that I was in Northern California suburbia rather than Beverly Hills.

Born to an Alabama farm boy and raised in the Washington DC beltway, Scott is as down-to-earth and unpretentious as they come. A regular Joe that chuckles at the notion that he is now a celebrity. “Celebrity?” Scott laughs, “To say anything I do is celebrity is just silly.”

The Sporting Chef has certainly racked up enough accomplishments in his “unchosen career path” to qualify as celebrity. This high school rock-n-roll singer and psychology degree toting culinary expert is an accomplished restaurant and catering business owner, author, TV host, producer, food photographer, and speaker. Oh, and he is also a devoted father, husband, and avid hunter.

Scott first entered the professional cooking scene after owning a restaurant in a small Northern California town where he specialized in wild game. One day the phone rang and the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) asked Scott to cater one of their fundraising events. Shortly thereafter, his catering business - Silver Sage Catering - was born and he was off to the races on the dinner circuit for local conservation organizations such as CWA, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others.

While working the wild game feed road shows, Scott was noticed and received a call from HGTV. He was invited to host and produce a series entitled “Home Grown Cooking with Paul James”. As part of that process, Scott also was able to produce The Sporting Chef show, which is also the name of his cookbook. Scott admits that he loves cooking in front of the camera most out of all his experiences. “In one show you end up with two segments of 9 minutes each in which to prepare two full dishes from start to finish”, says Leysath. “So you need to be prepared and entertaining.”

Scott learned early on in his television career that he didn’t want to produce the typical hunting or fishing show that already occupied the airwaves. As a result, he created a concept he calls “short attention span cooking”. The concept incorporates a fast-paced approach to showing the traditional hunting scene with Scott and partners harvesting the highlighted game, then cutting to game preparation and signature dishes prepared within the 30-minute show timeframe.

“You have to keep it interesting and different,” says Leysath, “because just around the corner is the next guy – younger, better looking, and more entertaining.”

These days, Scott is focused on a couple of interesting projects. He spends one week out of the month traveling to Alabama where he teams up with veteran outdoor host Donny McElvoy. The two of them plus Donny's wife produce an entertaining television series called HuntFishCook. Scott says he and Donny don't make the usual hunting and fishing video where all you see is hunters calling birds, shooting birds, retreiving birds, repeat.

Subscribe to Hunt, Eat, Live! to read Part II of The Sporting Chef interview. Learn about the re-release of his best selling cookbook plus receive a special recipe from Scott prepared especially for Hunt, Eat, Live!


Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like a cool interview. Can't wait to see part two.

Food for Hunters said...

Another great read! Must've been pretty awesome to hang out with Scott.