It’s hard to tell which came first Peter Worden the chef or Peter Worden the sportsman. Now there is little distinction, if any, as his two passions have melded into one extraordinary lifestyle that heavily influences his work as the new chef de cuisine for the Bellevue Club.
Worden’s culinary roots can be traced back to his formative years in Massachusetts, where he started washing dishes at 16 years old, fell in love with the regimented, structured lifestyle of working in a kitchen, and eventually attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.
All the while, he maintained an early interest in hunting and fishing. “I grew up shooting. I was really into guns—bb guns, paintball guns, gun safety was always a big thing. Later I got into shooting bows. I really got into marksmanship,” he says.
Fast forward to 2016. Worden now takes extended hunting trips for duck, elk and deer in Washington’s backcountry and goes on fishing trips to Alaska, where for three years in a row he has procured close to 100 pounds of halibut per trip. King salmon, however, is his absolute favorite.
The fruits of his efforts are enough to feed himself and his wife, Arielle, who is a chef at Schooner Exact brewery, for the better part of a whole year. But standard deer jerky and tasteless white fish certainly aren’t on the menu.
“It’s sashimi-grade fish, so we eat it raw a lot, in a tartare, in ceviche. But I’m really into gin and tonic salmon right now. I use all the spices from gin—lemon peels, juniper, rosemary—and soak it in a tonic water and salt cure for three days. It tastes like gin without the bite,” Worden says. “I’m also big on pan-seared halibut with just a little butter at the end. It’s such a good quality fish and melts in your mouth.”
A plethora of delicious dinners is one thing, but Worden says there are many other reasons why the combination of sportsman and chef create his ideal lifestyle and career path. For example, there’s the sustainability piece. He says he prefers to harvest his own meat over supporting harmful farming and fishing practices, which he says he’s been exposed to through the myriad restaurants in which he’s worked.
“I’ve got young nephews and cousins, and I want them to be able to enjoy it all too,” Worden says.
Worden also sites the camaraderie between those he hunts with and the connection he forges with his environment as reasons for embracing the practice.
“I love being out there. We go all out, wear camo, paint our faces. That’s what it’s all about—sitting in the blinds, eating jerky, talking about things that frustrate us, having good conversation,” Worden says. “We put our phones away and watch the sun come up, drinking coffee. Not to mention you get some good ducks. It couldn’t be better.”
Now with a few years experience under his belt, Worden is bringing his game expertise to the Bellevue Club kitchen—and menus. For the month of October, Polaris will be offering a special game menu, featuring pan-seared duck breast, elk tartare, venison and halibut dishes, among others. If you’re interested in tasting the fare, please call Polaris for reservations at 425.637.4608 If you’re interested in trying your own hand at hunting and cooking, read the sidebar for his tips of the trade.
Hunting and Harvesting 101
- "First get your hunter’s safety training. I always think it’s a good refresher for anyone. Kids are actually usually the safest; it’s the adults that need it the most."
- "When cooking game meat, the No. 1 rule is don’t over complicate anything. Do what you know. That doesn’t mean don’t try new things, but remember the technical part of cooking is the same. For example, if it’s a duck breast, you still have to render the fat out first. And if it’s something that doesn’t have a lot of fat, you’re going to have to add fat to help it cook."
- "Get a food saver. If you hunt a lot it pays for itself very quickly."