Venison workshop from local authority

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper displays the dishes of venison he cooked yesterday during the "Cooking with the Mayor" workshop. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
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 prime venison.

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 three times."

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 experimentation.

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.
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 Lepper said.

"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."

lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz