Artisan Spotlight: The Nature Conservancy + Foreign & Domestic

The Nature Conservancy in Texas is dedicated to conserving and protecting statewide land, water and wildlife. This year, they’re teaming up with two of Austin’s finest chefs – Ned and Jodi of Foreign & Domestic – to show Festival-goers how to get a little creative in the kitchen with a few of the state’s invasive species. Apart from their spot at The Grand Tasting Pavilion, they have also organized a four-course “Malicious But Delicious” dinner at F&D on Monday, April 22. Tickets are available here.

The Nature Conservancy is doing something really interesting at this year’s Festival by pairing with Foreign & Domestic during the Grand Tasting. Can you tell us a little more about the partnership?

The Nature Conservancy is working to raise awareness of invasive species and teach Texans that one of the most creative ways to control some of our state’s most pernicious critters is to eat them! We’re calling this effort “Malicious but Delicious” and we’ve teamed up with chef superstars Ned and Jodi, who own the popular Foreign & Domestic restaurant in Austin. Not only do we love their clever approach to cooking seasonal and sustainable food, we love that they are passionate about the environment and giving back to the community of Austin.

Why is it so important to take advantage of these invasive species in a culinary way? Is this a main focus for The Nature Conservancy right now?

Invasive species — non-native plants, animals and wildlife that overtake indigenous species — are a big problem across the Lone Star State and we are definitely closely focused on the issue. These pests cost our national economy an estimated $120 billion per year and threaten virtually every landscape and body of water we love across Texas. The notion of eating invasive species has gained traction among conservationists, hunters, foodies and chefs in recent years. Books like Jackson Landers’ Eating Aliens encourage local foodies to eat invasives like iguanas and nutrias. Marine conservationists have launched campaigns to encourage restaurants to carry lionfish, a species devastating coral reefs in the Caribbean and now the Gulf of Mexico, and dishes made from wild boar are in high demand at top restaurants across the state. Even certain governments (Britain and Australia) have urged their citizens to eat non-native species. History shows, people can certainly eat their way through populations of species. So, eating invasives doesn’t only provide good food, it is good conservation. Think of it as the ultimate green, guilt-free diet – malicious but delicious

Can you give Festival-goers a sneak peek of what you’ll be serving at your spot in the Grand Tasting?

Absolutely! We’ll be sampling the Wild Boar Rillettes at the Festival (recipe below).

Any other recipes you can share?

Sure! Ned and Jodi have developed four unique and delicious recipes using some of Texas’ most troublesome invasives like wild boar, the Himalayan blackberry, the giant Asian tiger prawn and bastard cabbage. (Full set of Malicious But Delicious recipes). More information about invasive species can be found via our website.

Be sure to swing by and sample the Wild Boar during the Grand Tasting and book your spot at Monday’s meal for the full invasive species experience!