Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper displays the dishes of
venison he cooked yesterday during the "Cooking with the
Mayor" workshop. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
There was no Gordon Ramsay-style swearing and no
trappings of mayoralty, just Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper
brandishing a sharp knife as he went to work on a big pile of
The Alexandra Thyme Festival workshop billed as "Cooking with
the Mayor" attracted a small but hungry audience yesterday.
The hour-long session with the mayor at the helm, cooking
venison, was not his idea, Mr Lepper said, and in fact he was
reluctant to be centre stage - "I think I said no at least
However, as a keen hunter and the person who did the cooking
for his family, he was eventually persuaded to extol the
virtues of venison.
The most appreciative member of the five-strong audience was
4-year-old Andrew Baird, of Earnscleugh, who sampled all the
different venison dishes cooked by Mr Lepper and came back
for seconds, and thirds.
"I love it all ... that, and that, and that," he said, in
between mouthfuls, pointing at the various plates of food.
Mr Lepper said some of his dishes were the result of
Andrew Baird (4), of Earnscleugh, with his mother Heather
Paterson. "I love it all," Andrew said, pointing to all the
plates of venison cooked by the mayor.
"Some of it was aimed at trying to disguise what meat it
was, so my kids would eat it."
Yesterday, he served up schnitzel, marinated steaks,
casserole, sausages, stir fry and kebabs as well as pointing
out the advantages of venison.
"It's lean, organic and you're getting rid of a pest animal
when you hunt it."
Although the samples he cooked were farmed venison, bought in
a supermarket, many Central Otago residents were keen
hunters, so they could source their own.
"Over the years, I've enjoyed the pursuit. You can't help but
love getting out into the country, and it keeps you fit," Mr
"It used to be unusual to see wild deer around Earnscleugh,
but now, when I'm working in my other job and checking
irrigation races around Earnscleugh, it's quite often you see
a deer or two and a few orchardists complain about deer
eating their trees too."