Meeting Tammy Wood for the first time is like connecting with a forcefield, and a breathe of fresh air, the feisty blonde exudes an energy that is infectious and has a warmth that is unmistakable.
The master chef, who finished in the top ten of MasterChef Canada, Season Two, invited The Observer over to her stylish pad in Agassiz.
Rustic nuances hint at her passion, not only in the kitchen, but out in the woods.
The picturesque home, complete with a revamped kitchen, one that will be featured in her upcoming television series “Saucy’s Got Game”, boasts antlers in creative mounts on the wall, and even an antler chandelier as a centre piece in her dining room.
Wood is an avid hunter and outdoorswoman, and she hunts not only for the kill, but for the fresh and organic meat that she uses exclusively in most of her cooking and to feed her family.
Having been widowed after a tragic work accident involving her husband seven years ago, Wood knew she had to step up to the plate, literally, to provide for her children.
Though, no easy task, Wood found herself alone for the first time in many years and she began to ask herself what she was really passionate about and rediscovered a zeal for cooking that matched no other.
In a short trajectory, her career has taken off at a jaw dropping pace that to most would seem dizzying, but for Wood, it can’t happen fast enough.
Delectable recipes and tips on how to prepare wild game grace the pages of the book she recently released “Around the Woods in 30 Plates,” but one thing she is most proud of is her state of the art kitchen.
Every chef needs the appropriate tools, and having an inspiring and fully operational kitchen is a plus, when it comes to making the culinary magic happen.
Her kitchen can now seat 18 to 25 people, which is a big deal, when you have a large family and a lot of friends. She cooks for almost 35 to 40 people every holiday.
“I decided I needed a kitchen and I needed it yesterday — I had Mark’s Custom Design come in and I figured everything out, the colours and the granite, and I wanted it nice and wide for the filming,” she said of her upcoming hunting and cooking show “Saucy’s Got Game”.
The show was titled after a nick name her late husband gave to her, and she wanted to pay homage to him. According to Wood, he had a nickname for everyone young and old in the family.
“I got the name because I was small, feisty, and energetic and he was this big, tall, massive, brawny guy and I was Saucy”.
The second part of the show’s name is based on her identity as a game hunter and an avid outdoorswoman. It has already been approved by three networks so far, including Wild TV.
“I’m a hunter and fisher girl and I recently entered Canada’s top outdoorswoman contest, we needed to send in a two minute video, so I took my daughter up into the mountains, and we were hunting and it was the middle of November, and I thought, this is the best back drop to film this two minute video”.
The video has had almost 8000 hits so far, and she’s still waiting for the results.
“We were up so many thousand feet in the air, and I thought, I’m just going to do this organically and promote being outdoors with the children, especially with the amount of electronics kids are exposed to these days, and to give them the opportunity to experience the peace, tranquility, and quiet of the outdoors.”
Wood shares her home with a nanny and six children. They range from ages 19 to 7. Her oldest Georiga is 19, Bronsen 18, Jesse 12, Jake 10, Breanna 9, and Camryn 7.
Camryn got her middle name after her Dad, Gary, who passed away in a tragic work accident seven years ago in May of 2009. He was an industrial engineer, an industrial mover, which is a dangerous profession and he also spent time in the military earlier on in his career.
Wood was four months into her pregnancy when Gary was killed and she decided that if her baby wasn’t a boy, she would use Gary as a middle name to honour his memory, and so her youngest was aptly named Camryn Gary Wood.
“People ask her about her name, and she has a story to tell about it, even though she didn’t know her Dad” Wood told The Observer of the link Camryn shares to her father.
After all was said and done, there was a hole in Wood’s life, as she started to pick up the pieces of their lives, after his tragic passing.
It’s been quite the roller coaster for the family, but once things started to settle down, Wood started to rediscover her passion for cooking in a whole new way.
Wood has always loved cooking, taking after her Dad who is a chef, and her Mom who is a seasoned and masterful cook in her own right.
“My mom really opened my eyes to different types of foods, Asian foods, Indian cuisine, and she was really into working with different spices, which kind of gave me an open mind when it comes to ingredients — I will try anything.”
Wood often tries different combinations of spices, while she’s experimenting on recipes for an exotic, flavourful dish with a localized twist.
“They may have been doing this type of cooking in the Mediterranean forever but we never thought to put it together here.”
Her tantalizing dishes include exotic combinations such as a Greek venison keftiko with puff pastry, venison samosa, Italian elk sausage, or even braised roasted elk with caramelized onions and mushrooms served atop a turnip horseradish puree.
When she found out there was Canada’s MasterChef, the keen foody, auditioned for Season Two and was accepted, wowing judges with one of her big game dishes, and with her big personality.
Thousands of people from across Canada tried out but after attending a closed audition in Vancouver, she nailed it, and ended up in the top ten in the series.
On turning the judges’ heads.
“I’m very passionate about cooking I get very emotional and I love feeding lots of people. I think they were excited to see that I had found my passion again. I remember at one point before this, breaking down, and going what is my passion I don’t even know what I like anymore”?
Wood’s main focus after Gary’s death was keeping the kids going and staying grounded.
“The show really catapulted me a lot, so when I came home I got a couple calls from BC outdoors, and now I’m working as a food editor for both the BC Outdoor Hunting and Fishing magazines and I do a lot of food expos, like the BC Outdoor Hunting and Fishing Show,” she said.
The list goes on as the prolific master chef mentions a handful of upcoming expositions she will be headlining as well as having earned the esteemed title of “Pro Staff” at Abbotsford’s Cabela’s.
Wood will be featured at the 55th annual Vancouver’s International Boat Show which runs from Jan. 18 to Jan. 22 and will be cooking with seafood, one of her favourite proteins to work with, as she told The Observer of her plans to prepare an alligator dish, and a salmon ceviche for guests.
The down to earth chef still works retail part time, but has taken a five month break from it, to promote her book and prepare for the television show.
Wood also had the opportunity to cook for at a hunting camp in Sweden, a ten day experience, that allowed her to experiment with reindeer meat.
She went down to shoot a promotional video for Arctic Nature, a shoot that involved drones, hiking, swamp work and a big moose hunt.
“I really felt like I belonged there, everyone was super friendly, and they really utilize everything from the wild meat down to the native berries.”
The saucy blonde discovered through an aunt that she had Scandinavian roots, while she was on location, and was told by locals that she had characteristics of a specific type of native Swede.
“It was amazing I cooked for three different camps and I cooked for German and Swedish hunters — I would definitely go back,” she said of the extraordinary experience.
When it comes to her show “Saucy’s Got Game” Wood’s is hoping to reach the markets that are relevant to her niche, which is undoubtedly, all things wild game.
“I’m creating this show for the hunting communities who will really use my recipes, and who are involved in hunting culture”.
The best thing about catering to a niche market is that it gives her an edge over other master chefs who have gone the traditional route.
“It’s super healthy, it’s organic, and it’s where we came from,” she said.
For more on Tammy Wood’s book “Around the Woods in 30 Plates” or her upcoming hunting and cooking show “Saucy’s Got Game” check out http://www.saucysgotgame.com or Tammy’s Facebook page.