Wild squirrel, muskrat, hare, deer and beaver are about to be added to the menus of some of Quebec’s top restaurants.
Until recently, wild game meat in the province could only be enjoyed by hunters and their friends. Any restaurants that made recipes based on local Quebec fare had to buy their meat from farms.
'Squirrel is not an odd thing, it might sound odd, but it’s not.' - David McMillan, Joe Beef chef
Now, the provincial government has agreed with a select number of restaurants to permit the sale of meals made from wild game.
Chef David McMillan from Montreal’s Joe Beef is one of the 10 chefs participating.
He said serving wild game has been a career-long ambition for him.
“It’s our native meat. We work hard to use local cheese, we work hard to use local products, local vegetables, local fish, and … when it came down to meat products, generally everything [was] farm-raised.”
McMillan said he expects to start gradually introducing wild meat to his menu this spring.
“It’s not going to be this giant slaughter. We’re just trying to do it slowly, properly, and manage it well.”
As for any meat-lovers who are skeptical of squirrel, McMillan says “it’s delicious” and describes it as tasting like something halfway between hare and quail meat.
“Squirrel is not an odd thing, it might sound odd, but it’s not,” McMillan said.
Martin Picard, chef of Au Pied de Cochon, said it's something he never dreamed of happening during his career.
"I hope that some day … all chefs in Quebec will also be able to participate in what we're attempting this year," he said.
The Quebec Wildlife Minister Yves-François Blanchet said the project will give chefs a chance to show off Quebec’s unique gastronomy and history.
“There is an opportunity for our culture as well as for our practices of hunting, trapping … there’s a window for something very interesting for Quebec,” Blanchet said.
The minister was careful to point out that the species chosen for the project are not endangered, and they are not known to carry bacteria that is dangerous to humans.