Ep. 517 – Texas to Table: Chef Ric Rosser and Micro-Local Cuisine

John Gordon Hello, everybody, and welcome again to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. I'm your host, John Gordon. I've got a special guest today, and I think one that people will really enjoy and can relate to, because this man, his life really revolves around the outdoors, but it also revolves around great food. And who can't appreciate the combination of the two? His innovations with Wild Game and you know, farm-to-table cooking are, at this point, legendary in my mind. But, you know, just because I've been fortunate enough to go down there and enjoy a lot of his food. But anyway, Ric Rosser, welcome to the DU Podcast.

Ric Rosser Thank you. Thank you. It's all lies. It's all lies. I promise. None of it's true.

John Gordon Oh, it's true, people. Let me tell you. Ric is the chef at Spread Oaks Ranch. It's a place that we've been fortunate enough to film both Ducks Unlimited Television and DU Nation and DU Films with Ric. As a matter of fact, you can go right now to YouTube or the DU website and look for the Chef Ric film that we filmed. What was that, Ric? 2020? Was that right in the middle of COVID, I believe?

Ric Rosser I don't know, but it deserves an Oscar. I know that. It was amazing. You're missing out if you haven't seen it, I know that.

John Gordon Well, that's it. And yeah, if you just Google Chef Ric Rosser, it comes right up as one of the first things on the page. I did that yesterday. I'm doing a little research here for this podcast.

Ric Rosser You'll be 1% smarter by watching that, I promise.

John Gordon Maybe two, I'm gonna give it 2%.

Ric Rosser Don't over deliver.

John Gordon So Ric, I mean, you've been a chef for what, over three decades, am I correct?

Ric Rosser Yeah, that hurts, but it hurt this year to be able to say that. My wife pointed that out. I'm hung up at like, I've been in the business 23 years, six years ago, you know? So yeah, 30 years this year, it's been a long and joyous and tumultuous journey.

John Gordon Well, it's got to be. And we talked about this when we were down there. If you choose that path in life to be a chef, right, if you're really going to be great at it, the commitment, the level of commitment to it, to me is astounding because starting out young, What are the hours like, Ric? Just give me an idea of what it takes to become an executive chef and really push through that grind.

Ric Rosser You know, I think I think it's just that it's being able to push through the grind. We're all just cooks and dishwashers at the end. I don't care what you say. You know, we dirty a dish. You should be respectful enough to be able to clean the dish. Being humble. You know, there's quotes that we're all just emotional, narcissistic. running around the kitchen, and sometimes we are. But I think the longevity of the chef matters. The chefs that come in and go, they're just that, they come and go. With anything that you want to be good at, you have to stick with it. the thought process that eight, golly, I was 19 years old when I started cooking in fine dining. My wife jokes, she said, when we met, I was in culinary school, young chef, and I didn't hunt for six years. So the first six years of dating my wife and then marrying my wife, she didn't know I hunted. Well, you know, we just didn't hunt because I was working all the time. And then we had kids and got the kids involved in hunting. She jokes, she was like, had I known, there would have been a lot more questions involved. You know, so it's it's quite comical is that the hunting is taking over so much. It started is, you know, if you don't mind me telling a story. So I think cooking in the wild for me started when I was taking my kids duck hunting because I'm not saying I was poor. But I had two sons, they eat like horses. So I would go duck hunt with them. And then because I was a chef, I always had leftovers from parties. So I could pull out a wok and a hot fire real quick over propane. And I could cook eggs, bacon, and I could have a 12 year old and a nine year old fed back in the car asleep driving back to Katy. And I didn't spend any money and they picked up all my decoys. I really think cooking out in the duck fields started a whole different genre of cooking for me as a chef, too. I mean, I think that sounds pretty weird, but it's something different.

John Gordon Right. No, it's not. The duck blind breakfast has really become a thing. I've hunted in several locations where they've had some of these giant blinds with full kitchens in there. And they've got somebody preparing food. That's just really a big part of the hunt. So I think that's really, it's taken a big step forward to the honey bun and crackers type deal that you can have when you're a kid. You know, it's really, it's really come a long way since then. So let's just go back in time a little bit, Ric, and we'll talk a little bit about, you know, how you grew up and your background. I know you're from Aggieland, Bryan, Texas. Am I correct?

Ric Rosser Absolutely. Gig'em.

John Gordon That's right. Texas folks are pretty divided between the hook'em horn and the gig'em people. It's it's really kind of divided into those schools, although there's a lot of colleges in Texas, but that seems to be the two dominant ones.

Ric Rosser But I joke, I'm the one in my family that got away. I didn't I didn't go. I didn't pick either. You know, right. I'm out. There's enough of y'all.

John Gordon So anyway, you're growing up in Bryant. You started hunting with your father? How did it all come about?

Ric Rosser You know, we really, we bowhunted and then bowhunted and then when duck season started, it was, we duck hunted on the Trinity River with some friends of ours. And then that's where we started. really started duck hunting and then took time off really. I'm not gonna lie, I didn't duck hunt for probably 15 years and then my oldest started shooting skeet with 4H competitively. And when we moved to Houston, some guys found out that my son shot skeet and they were like, hey, do you duck hunt? And I responded with, yeah, I duck hunt. And we showed up and started duck hunting probably about 20 years ago when we moved to Houston, like for real duck hunting, like not showing up and meeting friends, you know, like, Hey, we're dedicated. We're buying 25 dozen decoys. We've got mojos. We're completely stupid on the whole thing.

John Gordon And then, you know, I know your career took a, took a big turn on it. You, you, you know, we're basically in charge of the, of the kitchens and the entire saltgrass steakhouse chain. And anybody who knows Texas and has eaten at the saltgrass steakhouses, I mean, it's really an experience.

Ric Rosser Yeah, that was huge and a huge part of my life that helped me understand, you know, just the scope of kitchens and things. But, you know, John, I'd like to talk about how, as a chef, I morphed into cooking and just accepting the cooking of wild game. One day I was sitting there talking to a bunch of chefs of who I respected, and they had no concept of butchery. They couldn't cut up a chicken. They couldn't understand where a sirloin came from, right, or where a T-bone was running at. And I was just talking to these guys, and I started to think, I can see that in a deer, right? I know how to de-breast a chicken or take a chicken apart because we used to do it with ducks and dove and quail, right? And these are all things, and I realized at that point that I was a better chef because I was a hunter, right? I came into culinary school already knowing things that these guys didn't know, and they still don't know later down the road because they're just not part of it. So, funny story, I'm talking to these guys, I'm like, hey, would y'all like to learn how to butcher? And of course, they're all like, yeah, yeah, yeah. My sons and I go out, shoot wild hogs one night, gut them, skin them, Bring them back into one of my kitchens and we throw a class with these chefs and they all were able to butcher for the first time. And it was just so crazy at that point to realize that they had never done that. And it was because hunting that I was better as a chef or understanding cuts of meat or how flavors go together. You just start thinking about that when you're in the deer blind or the duck blind or whatever that is. It even got weird for us being able to be a chef. You have all this access to this food knowledge. And I tell you, as crazy as it sounds, but the aging of your ducks is huge for me now. Any species of duck can be eaten and it changes the flavor. You would say European style, say the leave it out and do all these. I can tell you that As a chef, we take out, we deviscerate, take out the guts and then leave that bird hanging for anywhere from three to nine days. USDA guidelines I think is like nine to 12 days. And then we go from there as a chef. It totally, most people don't have that ability. to think about. It's more of like I'm gonna breast it. I hate to say it, we're gonna add bacon to it. We're gonna do something like that. And that, again, as somebody who deals with food all the time, that just makes me sad. I think we can do better than that for our six teal that we shoot. It hurts my feelings that people are gonna make teal poppers. I'm not saying I don't eat them. I'm not saying they're not good. I'm just saying, you know, I guess if you're able to maybe harvest enough or not harvest enough, you should think more about that need than just that. Not that that's bad, but there's more to it. There's a whole new world of understanding wild game and how it eats better. It's a no brainer. I think that should answer a good question from a chef standpoint.

John Gordon Exactly. And folks, we've got a nice DU Nation film coming out shortly where Ric Cook's teal confit from the Spread Oaks kitchens, and I think it's outstanding. It's a simple way to do it that's really on another level.

Ric Rosser It really does add something different, and it doesn't take a lot. It doesn't take a lot of teal. I'm lucky enough to be able to work and live on a place that we get to hunt every day of season. We look at life a little differently out here, and I'm spoiled rotten. I mean, some days you can smell me, I'm so spoiled out here. So I know my thought process isn't normal, but that teal confit video, it really gets into how you can take something so simple and change it to a higher level. Because the duck confit is not from around here. It's a French recipe. It's taken and holding things from that fat.

John Gordon Exactly. And like I say, folks, you can be able to check that out on DU Nation. We did a little teal hunt when we were down there as well. Um, always great to, uh, to hunt with you, Ric. It's, uh, it's always a pleasure. We didn't, uh, you know, it was, it was, it was Monday, right? I think it was. And, uh, you know, look, I was not going to say anything, but you brought it up.

Ric Rosser I brought, I brought cake. All right.

John Gordon That's all the cake was spectacular. And, uh, it really was it, uh, the team. Yeah. You know, I mean, it's tough. It's tough. People don't realize during, during the week. In some areas that without any people out there hunting birds, they don't have to move. So that's what I think we ran into that day. They were just sitting tight, which you certainly don't blame them after that opening weekend where they had been hunting pretty hard.

Ric Rosser I laugh. My dad, when I was a younger father, used to be like, oh, you got to go hunt. You got to go hunt. And you sit there. I learned hunting with John Gordon on the Monday after teal season. You better put that in your journal. Go to work that day. Just go on and go to work. Don't listen to anybody. You know, your best friend says, Hey, we got to hunt Monday. Go to work.

John Gordon Go to work. Yeah. It's, it makes it tough. It's just, they were just there, you know, everybody been out Saturday and Sunday and that Monday, I think everybody was at home or well, no, they were back at work. That's what it was. So it just kept them from out of the fields and the marshes and everything else. And it just, they weren't flying, but hey, I had a blast. It was great. Let's talk about something that you've really developed at Spread Oaks, Ric, and that's the notion of micro-local cuisine, where everything that you're preparing comes right there from the ranch, correct?

Ric Rosser Right. Yeah. You know, again, one of the things we're really blessed at the ranch for is to have an open-ended thought process. Our biggest time here is now. when we have all our friends in Guinness over. So we start growing all of our lettuces, planting lettuces in August. And then we continue to plant all of ours. It's really cool. You start thinking about food. The food I'm going to eat in March, we plant seed in December, January in our greenhouses. Because of the drought this year, we're able to possibly have a bigger garden in the winter this year because we were able to get into it. We didn't have those September rains that we usually plague us with, all right, we're out of the garden now from a big volume standpoint. Somebody told me last year that on a ranch this big, to get a lot of work done, you have a drought. And I tell you what, we got a lot of work done because of the drought this year and the gardens and stuff are overflowing because of it, but there's work involved for sure. That micro cuisine just really comes from a dedication to committing to the land. And when we see things that are growing any time of year, we harvest and then just take back. And we either eat immediately because it's the freshness, or we figure out some way to preserve, just like anybody would have. Some of our thought processes go back like Nemo or Mama used to make. Maybe your great great grandmother made something or grandfather made something like that. I think we think about bringing those recipes back. because of what the community is. You never really forget those hunts. They're always in your mind. And if we here at Spread Oaks can make food that ties with those hunts, I mean, you can never be mad around a dinner table that's serving good food. And I think we start that at the lodge, and then we try and move that out to the duck blinds. Look, always get ducks to come, right? But I can always think about cooking the right food when you get back. And we can talk about the hunt or talk about last season's hunts or the hunts to come. I think that's what the people here at Spread Oak truly brings to the guests. And maybe, hopefully, they take that to other people. It's all about traditions.

John Gordon Exactly, exactly. And on that note, folks, we're going to take a little break and stay with us. And we'll be right back on the Ducks Unlimited podcast. Hey everybody, welcome back to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. My guest today, Chef Ric Rosser from the wonderful Spread Oaks Ranch near Bay City, Texas. And we were just talking about Ric's real development of wild game cooking and the micro local cuisine idea where you take everything you've got at your disposal at the ranch and turn it into incredible food on the table.

Ric Rosser I'd also like to add, once you become part of a ranch like this, you start meeting friends out there. And there's other like-minded people. They're not a chef, they're just a farmer out there and they're doing something. So I like to say that we do a lot of stuff here, but it's the community that I know and whether Our farmer that does all of our cotton farming meets a guy that grows lemons. Or there's a lady in Needville that raises goats for popsicles that are amazing. And sometimes of the year she has excess goats milk and we get to make cheese from that. You know, it's just being able to know people. Again, it goes back to the community. You really got to know and talk to people and find out what they do and who they are. And I don't want to say we capitalize on that, but it's a lifestyle that we can talk and they say they have extra and we get to. to do cool things with because we know them.

John Gordon Exactly. And something we were talking about when I was there is developing contacts for fresh shrimp out of the Gulf. Oh, yeah. That's right there at y'all's fingertips as well.

Ric Rosser Yeah, yeah. I'm not going to lie to you. My wife, that's the story of the summer this year is finding the shrimp that sell to blonde haired ladies that come up with money. That was a huge win at Spredo. She's going home now. You need shrimp? I know where to go. I know where to go, I'm gonna go talk to Rodrigo. Yeah, I know it sounds silly, but so I've been at the ranch or I've worked for the ranch for a couple years, but only lived on the ranch for like a year. My wife and I live in Houston, we're from the city, we don't live on a ranch. So big deals for us, we're going to the farmer's markets. And here we are now, we roll up to the canals where the guys are unloading the shrimp boats and the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and the beer cans falling out. And I'm like, I'll take five pounds. You're elbowing up there from some big guy that might be on probation. But watch out, man, we're up for shrimp here. I want those, I want those. That was huge, big win. And imagine how different it is. It's just so different when you be there and I don't, this is the only way, it's the visceral effect of watching the shrimp jump. You're going to get those shrimp. It's like nobody else is getting these. It's probably a foodies thing, a foodie dream, but that was huge. I'm glad my wife found that for us and that was a hoot.

John Gordon Yeah, that's part of the whole Texas Coast experience, the proximity to all that wonderful seafood. And you've got fish as well, you know, from great access to flounder, spotted sea trout, redfish, all of it is right there and at your disposal. So it just, as a chef, it's got to be, you know, you're in a cornucopia down there.

Ric Rosser You know, it's crazy when guests come in and they're like, hey, we really want to cook these fresh redfish. And you have to tell them, hey, no, no, man, we want to stay on this cycle here. And it's not that you don't want to cook them, because you want to eat it too, because it's fresh redfish. It's right there. And then you cook it for no reason other than just to gorge yourself on how awesome it is. But yeah. Yeah, being able to pick and choose what you eat and then see it from the beginning until the time it goes on the plate is really an experience that you can't explain. And from the food standpoint, just the flavor, I'm not really good at what I do, I don't think. I'm really good at meeting people that are really good at growing animals, and I just add some salt and pepper. That's all I'm, it's a secret. Don't tell anybody that anybody can do what I do.

John Gordon Don't listen to that folks. I mean, he, he, he, he's not really telling you the story there. It's a, I mean, some of the stuff I've had at spread Oaks, Ric, that veal that you prepare, man. I'm not sure how to even describe it.

Ric Rosser Our big thing this year, our big win this year is pastrami short ribs. I'm telling you that is huge. That is amazing.

John Gordon Folks, something else that's amazing, and I haven't been around anyone who's been this serious about this particular thing than Ric, is meat aging and the flavors and the incredible charcuterie boards that you make. Ric, I can't, once again, it's hard to describe. I mean, where did you really come up with the thought that, man, I'm going to make my boards special?

Ric Rosser No joke, Forrest threw a book at me and said, build me a smokehouse. Like that, no joke, that was like, the book was off Amazon, How to Build a Smokehouse.

John Gordon It's like $26.95, best book ever, you know?

Ric Rosser Don't edit that out, that's a for real story, man, for real story. So yeah, I mean, when I came to spread oats, I had done some bacon and some hams. I guess you don't really just do some bacon and some hams. It's still a dedication because you're months into that process. And then Forrest and I were talking about it and he was serious. He was like, hey, I want a smokehouse. And I was looking online, I was like, all these little bitty ones are fine. He's like, no, no, no, no, I want a smokehouse. And I now have a 15 by 15 by 20 foot gable 13th century smokehouse from a book that I bought off Amazon for $26.99, you know?

John Gordon Well, necessity is the mother of invention, right? It's, uh, you know, you're tasked with, yeah, we need to, we need to smoke out for real.

Ric Rosser And so, you know, I'm no, uh, I'm no half stepper. So if you ask me to do something, I'm all in. Really, the smokehouse, because we were really talking about just old school recipes. And that smokehouse represents Italy, it represents Kentucky, it's just a thought process. And then whatever recipe we decide to do with our charcuterie, it's all a long term thought process. Most of our stuff is nine months to, we're just eating ham from three years ago. You know, like when pre-COVID, that's what we joke, you know, we're eating pre-COVID hams now around here.

John Gordon That's pretty incredible. And the level of commitment to that is, and the patience it takes to wait three years, you know, for a, for a piece of meat to be, to be right to me is just fascinating. I just never even thought about it before.

Ric Rosser I'm not gonna lie, I'm gonna tell you another story real quick. So when I started doing charcuterie at this level, we're buying 24 pigs, butchering them ourselves, and turning them into charcuterie, right? That's a huge commitment, that's 48 legs of prosciutto. If you think about it like that, that's 48 pork bellies for bacon, you got to have storage space. That's like shooting for elk, or three Canadian geese, either way, but they're just big fat hogs. So I buy all these specialty pigs from a super awesome pig farmer, and then the world shuts down at COVID. And I had butchered these hogs and put them into a curing process, which is just a salt, a basic salt curing process for prosciutto or Kentucky hams, right? But they still, you have to play with them or touch them every couple days and for sure in three weeks. But the world was shutting down because of COVID. So I had to ask my wife if we could leave our house and Katie and move to the ranch so I could babysit all these charcuterie items that I had processed so I wouldn't lose not only all that money, but all that product and all that good pig. But that's how, I know it sounds crazy, that might've been how the passion started for charcuterie because COVID hit and it was right there in front of us. I had to do it because, I mean, it's a living organism at that point when you start messing with meats like that that are, Weighing or losing fat content and just the water loss on it. It's not something you can walk away from it. Like you said, it's a big commitment.

John Gordon Yeah, it is. But the product is outstanding. Yeah. I mean, it's just like I said, yours are like none I've ever had. It's just that prosciutto, man. It's like razor thin. The flavor just explodes in your mouth. It's incredible.

Ric Rosser Well, I'm not going to lie to you. I never thought I'd, I get asked a lot about our charcuterie and how I got here and I have no idea. Maybe I tripped, fell along the way. I'm not real sure, but I'll say it again. You know, it all goes back to the recipe is what it is. But again, you go back to knowing the people. that raise or are just passionate about what they do, I don't think you can ever go wrong, you know?

John Gordon That's right, that's right. Let's shift gears once again for a minute because this has become a huge part of your life and I can't imagine that you would have saw this path, you know, even like 10 years ago at all, that now that you are so involved in wetlands and waterfowl habitat, and that development and creating a special place that's home to ducks and geese. So tell us a bit about how you've really embraced that process, Ric.

Ric Rosser You know, it's a great question, by the way. Again, being somebody, I don't want to say that I'm of the land. That makes me sound pioneer-ish, maybe. But like, once you realize, let's talk food plots. or whatever we plant for any of our animals outside. Whether you're planting late season radishes for deer, or turnips, or you have duck potatoes, all that stuff rotates. as edible for us at certain times too. And again, I know it sounds weird, but you want to eat a good turnip, go into your food plot at the end of the year before your deer eat it and pull, you know, we joke, we, we plant black eyed peas down here because they grow like wildfire certain times of year for us. And they're a great source of protein. But if I go out and pick black eyed peas before the deer come, then I can put up black eyed peas and my food plots for my deer still grow because I'm nothing compared to a deer when I pick three five gallon buckets of black eyed peas. So it's just, once you start doing that and look, I'm not to the point to where I'm gonna go in November and get invertebrate and the snails from the duck to saute to put with pasta yet. You're in no danger. of eating something weird like that at Spread Oaks. The thought process that, you know, that food out there and what the ducks eat or what the deer eat is really sometimes what we eat too. If you plant enough of it, we all win. Man, I'm not going to lie to you. That was a sound bite. You know that's a sound bite. You edited me saying that now, but period. Mic drop. Call me when you want me to sign an autograph. There you go.

John Gordon That's great. Put that on a T-shirt.

Ric Rosser Hey, did I show you the, because of all our big tallow tree, you know, the Johnny Cash picture, we, you know, spread O's, we really don't care for tallow trees that much. We've had two and a half years, I think, of rock, but you're doing an amazing job of the tallow tree, just desecration out here coming through and killing them. And then this year we've pushed them all down and combined them so we can burn pile them, but a big picture of Johnny Cash. Well, he's in Folsom prison with his finger sticking out and it says, you know, basically it says F Tallowtree Spread Oaks Ranch and it's one of our badass t-shirts this year.

John Gordon $30 on eBay if you'd like. It's fantastic. But the area you were talking about is that Jennings Lake area and that's what it, how old is that? It's a historic place in Texas wetlands history that I can

Ric Rosser I'm gonna lie to you, and then somebody can call me out on it, but here's how I know it. And again, I'm not really good at remembering, because sometimes I don't pay attention. It's been quoted, I don't pay attention. But I know that that lake has been there since before Texas was Texas. So that body of water has ebbed and flowed, but has always been someplace that ducks have imprinted on. And I didn't really understand that until this year, or the end of last year when we started letting water out. And then Jenny's Lake, I mean, again, I know it also if you jump into like the 50s, I think the residents of Bay City used to come out here and use it. to fish out of because we have like chimneys from fish camps out here, which make a great place to have a party. But this year we got in, all the tallow trees again had been killed with the chemical. And then we have came in this year and bulldozed over 30 acres. that we gained back of lake land up into where the oak trees are the main front. So just think about it, I mean we really gained probably anywhere from 26 to 35 acres of new shorefront for the ducks this year just in that one body of water. Man, it's amazing. It's amazing. And again, huge Rob Sawyer made all that happen, right? We're just stewards of picking up after what he's let us do. It's been and you have to give a big shout out to Forrest Wiley for the whole project. Appreciate the checkbook, you know? No small thing either, but those two combined.

John Gordon Can't be overstated what a Gully Forest Wildlife means to wetlands and waterfowl conservation and wildlife conservation in general. It's because it's guys like him who put the dollars behind everything that happens at a place like Spread Oaks and you know we're glad as an organization, Ducks Unlimited, to help and we have helped quite a bit on that property, but it takes somebody like him to really have that commitment to really see this through and make it all happen.

Ric Rosser Yeah, it's the commitment to just doing the right thing at all costs. You know, really the answer is at all costs. What's the right thing to do? Right. I know Forrest believes in everything and we believe in Forrest, so I think it's a great relationship.

John Gordon Yeah. Yeah. Agreed. Agreed. Anything special on the menu this year? Ric, anything new you got coming up?

Ric Rosser Um, so this year that the start of big, since we're, since we're through teal, you know, we knocked off the dust and teal 16 day run. Uh, big duck season is going to be, we were just talking about our pastrami short ribs, uh, curing those 12 to 14 days. We made cedar planks to serve off of. which will be new. I haven't made cedar plates in quite a long time. We just heat up that cedars, gives that smell. We're working on organic sauerkraut to go over the pastrami short ribs because nothing says I'm a big fat, like a 16 to 20 ounce bone-in short rib. We're going to put some sauerkraut on top of that. And then the other is the duck confit here. We really are going to try and I think this is my statement for the year. At the end of this duck season, it's going to be a great duck season no matter what happens, right? But I have to find a cardiologist, because at the end of this duck season, I'm going to need a doctor. With all the duck confit and pastrami short rib, there's no amount of salad that's going to help me this year. Usually, I really try and stay healthy. I drink a lot of water. I do what I can. But this year, there's no way I'm making it out. No way serious concern of heart attack this year at the end. I need some stance Shunts in you know, just just make an appointment February right after tonight's season I'm in dog like I'm gonna need to go in. So yeah, the short ribs are gonna be huge duck confit and again our desserts The salads are gonna be fun this year. We again we grow all our own lettuce mixes So we found some kale varieties that we really like We're always going to have our Caesar salad that we make because of the speck that goes on it, but we really are looking for another kale vinegar salad. I think we found a good mix this year as long as the weather holds. You know, we don't have too many freezes down here. Let it freeze up north in Canada. Don't shortstop me in the plains either. Just come on to Texas, you know.

John Gordon That's right. That's right. You know, the big ducks are there already. I mean, we, we, we saw, you know, pintails, shovelers, uh, there's already some ducks around, uh, for sure down there and it's, it's dry. I know that, but, uh, I keep hearing it's going to be a wet winter. I haven't seen any evidence of it yet though.

Ric Rosser Looking at the Farmers' Almanac last night, and it says mild and wet and cold up in the middle of the United States. So again, I hope y'all freeze up there. I'll hold all the ducks down here for you. We got passion for the habitat. Praise DU. Come on down to Texas and let's shoot some birds.

John Gordon You know what I'm saying? I know what you're saying, brother. I know what you're saying. This is Memphis though, Ric. We're not exactly in North Dakota here.

Ric Rosser Hey, look, man, it's all fair until duck season starts. I'm looking for ducks, boss. I need ducks. I got the itch. I got the itch.

John Gordon That's right. And y'all, hey, look, think about it. I mean, it's late September. Y'all will be open within, what, five weeks, six weeks tops?

Ric Rosser Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, at this point, we're opening up. It was teal season. We've shut off water so we can roller chop and open up big areas for the big ducks. It'll be here in, I mean, if you really think about it, from our standpoint, it'll be here in three weeks because we've got to start roller chopping, adding more water. Because we're a drought this year, everybody's jumped their timetable up on watering and filling ponds. And to have that commitment to the habitat, it's really about water and getting that water on quick. so you can get the growth for that habitat.

John Gordon So that's huge. You know it's because y'all's impoundments are more soil units and we've as a as a organization Ducks Unlimited has had great success with more soil development. I mean we've helped y'all down there with that stuff and I think it's it's really it's kind of an art form to create a great more soil unit. There's just so many things going into it.

Ric Rosser Yeah that natural grass that's in there it's crazy. It's crazy to think that that dirt already has a seed that you need in it. You just have to bring it out.

John Gordon Right, right. There's so many seeds in that soil.

Ric Rosser Yeah. And I mean, you're constantly fighting, you know, whatever invasive, you know, Cispania or off the Nyad to grow. So you start growing deeper water, which pushes water deep, shallower in your areas that you get your jungle rice in. It's really cool to think that we're boutique or bougie about maybe how we grow our food here, because we grow it in… We don't turn this over to rice farming. It's not like our water or big you know, 100 acre impoundments. We're dealing with 100 to 500 acre impoundments that we're growing water or growing habitat is. So we're controlling that water on a smaller scale, but it's still getting that habitat to grow. So, you know, ducks are like an athlete. They eat one thing in November and they eat something completely different in December. And in January, right before they go back, they're looking for those carbs, you know, just like a big Olympic athlete, they got to fly back up there.

John Gordon And, you know, in our lifetime, I've watched the Texas coast really change quite a bit to where these ducks are so dependent on those moist soil units because the rice base is gone. You know, everything else is now, it's cotton or grain, it's just dirt. And without those moist soil developments, there would not be any wintering birds on Texas.

Ric Rosser I know that I'm not old in duck hunting like you guys, right? I'm not Methuselah, so to speak, but you know- Thanks, Ric. You're welcome. You're old. I'm not, whatever you want to take that as. You got good looking hair and mine's gray. That's what I can tell you. I grew up 20 years ago with my kids in the Katy Prairie, like legit Garwood. For those people that hunt Texas, you know the Walmart distribution center out of there. That's what I thought duck hunting was 20 years ago. And to see that now, The geese gone from that area just blows my mind. We used to shoot geese there, we were dumb. I look back now and go, I don't know how we shot ducks, we were so stupid. We should have done this and that, I mean, golly. But just growing up on that, I say growing, 20 years ago, the Katy Prairie was so much more different than it is 15 years later even, so. then the coast you know it's mind-blowing yeah it's crazy i can't imagine well i i talked to a lot of the old timers older than you you know respectfully john being you know somebody of your age you know like rob's age right oh easy there easy now you talk to those guys and I'm a visual person, so when they're describing this to me, I can't imagine that they're like, yeah, I mean, we see all these teal in September, away. I can't imagine that, but sure enough, there it is. And you're not gonna call Bubba a liar, cuz he's no liar. So it's crazy to think that just within the last 15 to 20 years, just the change of the migration or what's coming here because of the loss of rice. I hate to say, and I don't know, just if drought continues, what they do on water restrictions for places like us and rice farmers.

John Gordon Right, right. I know that the Colorado River Authority has a really big job on their hands because they've had very little water to work with and they're trying to really make everybody happy in that area. But they just can't afford to be, oh, how do you say it? I mean, they can't afford to be reckless with the water. They've really got to watch what's going on. And it's changed the landscape down there in a big way. It just all goes back to it's been a lack of rainfall now for years.

Ric Rosser Yeah, I had no idea they were counting last year as a drought as well. I just heard that the other day, you know, we've been in like a two year drought. And I mean, that's a crazy thought process. You know, it's just crazy thought, I guess, just that, you know, I am not sorry for the pause. I'm not envious of decisions that they have to make. But I am very concerned from a business owner and the way somebody who knows the farmers that do those things as to how you're going to help us help you help them. Power to the people. The revolution will not be televised. There you go.

John Gordon Power to the people, Ric. That's it, brother. That's it. Well, man, this has been fantastic. And folks, I'd encourage you, if you don't know anything about Spread Oaks Ranch, go to spreadoaksranch.com. Check it out. What an incredible place. I mean, the Forest Wiley has done with that property is truly outstanding from a wetlands and waterfowl standpoint, from just a pure great place to go standpoint. It's really incredible.

Ric Rosser It's really an amazing place and it's amazing what we get to do and just doing the right thing out here.

John Gordon Exactly, exactly. Well, Ric, thanks so much for being on the DU podcast. I will see you again in December. I'll be down back down there. Can't wait. Won't be too long.

Ric Rosser Come on, John.

John Gordon I'm coming in hot, brother. Anyway, so anyway, folks, thanks for listening to the Ducks Unlimited podcast and for supporting wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

Creators and Guests

John Gordon
Ducks Unlimited Podcast & DU Nation Host
Ep. 517 – Texas to Table: Chef Ric Rosser and Micro-Local Cuisine