Flylords caught up with Eduardo Garcia host of Yeti’s short video series called “Hungry Life.” Where he makes memorable meals with what’s on-hand, learning from the land and local pros, and making food an integral part of every adventure.
Flylords: I feel like whenever you’re shooting a fishing or a hunting film, you never really know what to expect because there are so many variables. Anything from bad weather, fish not biting, to the bighorn sheep not showing up to play. What were some of the challenges that you faced, and maybe the crew faced, filming the show?
Eduardo: Yeah, I guess that is one of the challenges with documentary-style content, so specifically for the show Hungry Life, we were shooting a non-scripted series. What that means is, everybody from the audio technician to the film guys, to the director, to even the camera assistant, everyone just needs to be ready, because you don’t know when the fish will bite. You don’t know when the sheep will be present. You don’t know when anything will happen. Whereas a scripted show, you kind of plan it, one, two, three execute, right? So that’s probably one of the greatest challenges.
Flylords: Where did the inspiration for the show Hungry Life come from?
Eduardo: The genesis for the show really came from my business partner Jenny Jane. When we were dating, she just witnessed the way that I cooked naturally at home, over a fire on our adventures. She noted that other people as passerby’s were very interested in what I was doing over a fire, and that was the genesis of like, “Huh, maybe people had an interest in cooking over coals. This is cool, maybe we should talk to them about it.”
The original concept came in 2011 when we filmed a sizzle reel for an outdoor cooking show called Active Ingredient. The Food Network actually wanted the first right of a refusal on the show. And bittersweet but true is, I was electrocuted just five days before we were supposed to have a meeting to sign that contract. So that idea was incubated for many years. And then in 2016, I pitched the idea to Yeti, and they took a bite. So we renamed it Hungry Life and that’s where we’re at.
Not a lot of people know that.
Flylords: How long did it take to film each episode, and what was the crew size?
Eduardo: You know what, our crew really moved from a nimble crew of like six people, to larger crews of 8 to 10. We gave ourselves around four to five days, not including travel, for each episode.
Flylords: How long have you been fly fishing for, and what was it like coming back to the sport after your accident?
Eduardo: I’ve been fly fishing since I was 15. And coming back to fly fishing after my injury was far more challenging than I thought it would be. I swear I cried the first time I broke my tippet and had to retie some tippet on. I could have just thrown on a new leader, but you know, you don’t just throw it away because you break the first 12 inches, you tie on some new tippet right? I remember sitting on the riverbank figuring out how to tie that knot, and it took about 40 minutes, it was a pain in the ass. But I did it, I got it. Just last fall did I finally have a chance to get back on a drift boat…
I was on the Jefferson, and it just looked like a streamer day, dark, misty, cloudy. It looked and just felt like a streamer day, the fish had to be aggressive. So I threw on a big bug and a sinking tip, and caught a beautiful brown, and then didn’t look back. And I chucked that streamer all day long. So likely it took me seven years just to get back to a place where I could strip and get the hand hook coordination to strip line in. So yeah, I’m getting there and still learning.
Flylords: Is there any way you can compare cooking with fishing and hunting?
Eduardo: Well, cooking is maybe not something that I would compare, but rather that I would partner as both being collaborative efforts, right? So what I mean by that is, for me, when I hunt and fish, I fly fish in preparation of eating. I’m aware of what I may be catching and have an idea of how to prepare it if I do decide to eat it. Like a major league ballplayer, he doesn’t just show up on game day not having swung a bat all year. He’s swinging bats all the time so that on game day he can execute, same thing for cooking. I’m preparing to cook a meal as I prepare for a hunt or day of fishing.
I’ve got 10 people coming over, so I’m looking for a 5-pound fish, or it’s just me in my little pup tent so I need a half pound brook trout. The cooking element is a continuation, and really one of the final parts of the hunting/fishing process. It’s what you do after you successfully hunt and fish.
In the Hungry Life, Yucatan episode, Oliver and Hillary are professional fly anglers and come from this place where everything is catch and release. It was really kind of fun and cool to be out there catching to keep. They really enjoyed understanding this aspect of the fishing as they don’t really partake in it normally.
Flylords: For people who are horrible at cooking, myself included, this show really inspired me to put more effort into cooking a meal. There’s a quote in one of the episodes where you say, “The most forgettable meals are the ones that require no effort.” Do you have any advice for someone who maybe wants to get more into cooking and has no idea where to start?
Eduardo: Yeah, I would tell them to start with me and start following the recipes that I’m posting and go to @MontanaMex or montanamex.com and check out those recipes and I’m hoping, fingers crossed, to have a series of hungry life inspired recipes that I’ll be posting to my site, which is chefeduardo.com. I’m super psyched to share my stoke of food with others and hunting and fishing and I have a ton of great recipes you can start with.
Another great place to start is to bring some seasoning with you on your adventure.
If you know you’re going after red drum, if you know you’re going after trout, if you know you’re going after tuna or whatever the species might be, think about how you would want to eat that fish or how you’ve had that fish in restaurants. Then put together a little spice kit – a little packet of spices or seasonings that is in your little go bag, so that when you do get a fish, and if you’re inspired, you can filet that thing right there and throw just a little bit of a citrus salt a half ounce container of soy sauce a little jalapeno seasoning maybe, and boom – You’ve got a great tasty little snack that totally just transformed that day of fishing into like the most memorable thing you’ve ever done and then hopefully you do it again next time.
Flylords: One of the most interesting parts of this show for me was the foraging aspect and so many of the ingredients that you were using, I feel like 99.99 percent of people would just walk over all these ingredients. Tell me about where you acquire that knowledge and then also, if you had to study the fauna before going to these locations on these shoots.
Eduardo: It’s all about the books. Get yourself one two if not three guides, foraging guidebooks for wild edible plants in your specific region… These books have hundreds of varieties. So, flip through and there’s a high chance that if you connect the dots on your location, and what time of year is it, you’ll be able to hone in a small subset of plants that are available during that specific time of year.
In Florida, there may be hundreds of varieties of edibles, but if you get a book about foraging Florida and you’re like, “All right, I’m going down there to chase tarpon in May,” then take your book and say, “Okay, what is edible in May in Florida?” And then look at those varieties and make yourself a goal, saying, “Cool, I want to focus on finding just five of these or just one of them.” And go find one. And then, boom, now you’ve recognized it, now you know it and now you see it. And then, next time you’re out, do another one, right?
Flylords: Do you have a favorite dish or style of cooking?
Eduardo: Directly in the coals or over the coals, yeah. If there’s an opportunity to not use a pot or a pan but rather just crack a lobster in half and throw it in the shell right on some medium heat coals and let that meat cook in the shell? Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s super, super rad.
Flylords: Tell us a little bit about what Montana Mex is?
Eduardo: Montana Mex is a national food brand that focuses on organic, preservative-free, clean-label natural condiments. So, we have three sauces, three seasonings and an avocado oil, and more than just being a company that makes really tasty, killer, healthy foods, we’re also just a human company. We like to include our human lifestyle messaging in our branding. We like folks to know who we are on the back end and then we also are an organization that gives back to a group called the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which supports people with physical disabilities to be active in sports and athletics. So, we’re a human brand that likes to give back and has an impact. Beyond all that, we’re a brand that makes a really killer habanero sauce for your grouper sandwich, ketchup for your french fries and a jalapeno seasoning for your tuna sashimi that doesn’t have preservatives or any bullshit in it.
Flylords: One of our favorite quotes in the Laguna Madre episode was, “The best meal you’re going to have is what’s unoffered.” Tell me us a little bit about this quote.
Eduardo: That means everyone one of us would be well-served at some point to be put in a position of hunger, where we’re hungry, genuinely hungry, and find ourselves in that place where we have nothing in our hands and nothing in our fridge and nothing in our cooler and go for some period of time knowing what hunger is. The 99.9 percent of us, to your point, have no idea what real hunger is like and are blessed to have unlimited opportunities to eat such a diverse array of foods, and that’s rad. That’s badass. That’s what the world is today and let’s do it, right?
But, my point is, is there should be a certain element of gratitude for whatever you do have, right? Because it’s not always the case that you have something in front of you. So, the best meal you’re going to have is the one that feeds you and puts you in a position to stay alive, right? You’re lucky if you get to have the brand of beer you like with your burger and you get to have it be grass-fed, or medium rare, or with … You know what I’m saying? That’s kind of my point.
Flylords: What was it like filming with Oliver and Hillary?
Eduardo: Oh my gosh, like hanging out with rock stars. To watch Oliver cast is an incredible thing. Hillary is no slouch either. What I loved about these episodes is that everyone brings a different skill to the table it’s a pleasant opportunity to witness that you are there to learn, and that the others around you have a lot to offer that you can pick up from them. So the comradery and friendship of like-minded individuals is huge, and that’s basically what we had going on there.
Flylords: Tell us about catching your first permit, and what did the scorpion taste like?
Eduardo: Well, my first permit, as I’ve been told by folks at the lodge, it’s what you would call a learner’s permit, because it was a little guy. But whatever man, I’ll take it, you know what I’m saying? A permit is a permit, anyone who has fished for them knows this.
I’ll take it, as Oliver White said, “Most people can count on one hand how many permit they’ve caught in their lifetime.” So I was extremely excited when that happened.
Dude, the scorpion tasted gnarly man. If anyone has eaten a grasshopper, it was like a little bit acrid, a little bit like eating kind of soggy popcorn you know it was soaked in tequila so thankfully my passion for tequila is so strong that it didn’t put me off.
Flylords: What was it like being thrown into new environments in these episodes. Were you ever genuinely scared during the filming of any of them?
Eduardo: There were two moments we had a huge weather system come in during Laguna Madre and it was like all systems go, pack the boats and we would have to run for the boat ramp which is like a thirty minute run on a flatboat before that huge storm cell hits us so that was like a little, never worried for my life but that was a moment were you just wouldn’t have wanted to been out in a huge body of water in a flatboat, you know.
And then on the Big Horn sheep hunt, there was a moment where Ben and another of our team members had taken all eight horses and mules to the water to drink and they were supposed to be back at x time and they were like two to three hours late and it was dark, and we’re in this grizzly bear rich zone in southwest Montana. After three hours I made the call. I said alright, I need one able-bodied individual, we need a ditch bag that has first aid, that has emergency gear to survive overnight, and we got to go see what’s up.
A guy volunteered and I threw the pack on him and we ran down the hillside and found our crew. Little did we know that horses don’t like to drink muddy water and the spring’s flow was so low that one horse would get in there and drink and muddy it up and the next horse wouldn’t drink for thirty minutes until it cleared up again. So it took these guys like ten times the time.
Flylords: Why do you think people should watch this series?
Eduardo: I believe that everybody has the opportunity to become inspired by watching Hungry Life because it serves as a battle cry for how to be hungrier in your life, how to take more advantage of your day in the outdoors.
Flylords: What’s next for Eduardo? What are you up to?
Eduardo: You know, I am focused on the food brand Montana Mex and inspiring people to eat food, eat better food, eat clean food, and get cooking. I am actively setting my sights on creating a platform through partnerships and collaborations to inspire people to protect their public lands and get outside and know where their food comes from and know how to go get it.
If you haven’t checked out my documentary, please do. It is called Charged, you can view at chargedfilm.com and you can download it on any online platform. It’s a motivational film just about what happens when shit goes south and how to resurrect the situation and yourself and the community.