Kaelah James, aka Kaelah's Wild Kai Kitchen, is a New Zealand speafisher, huntress and incredible wild food cook. She's built up a following on Instagram by sharing her delicious recipes and she's now come on board as a Bushbuck ambassador and contributor to The Campfire blog. She will be sharing wild food and catch-and-cook recipes, as well as the stories behind hunting and gathering the kai. We wanted to extend a warm welcome to Kaelah and introduce her to the Bushbuck community with a short Q&A.
  • Introduction - Image 1


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm Kaelah, a keen spearfisher, huntress, gatherer and wild kai enthusiast. I'm currently living in Wellington, originally from Christchurch, but Kaikoura is still my home base where my parents live and we go down often to get our diving and hunting fix. I have two boys aged nine and seven. Both of my boys are keen little spearfishermen and hunters. I work full time for KiwiRail as train controller, but working towards having a food over fire catering business down in Kaikoura by the end of year.

What are some of your earliest hunting memories?

My dad and older brother taught me to hunt, starting with shooting pheasants and rabbits on our farm when I was young, but I didn't start until my twenties. I used to hate the thought of killing an animal. But dad pretty much drilled into me the importance of pest and environmental control as they loved eating our natives. The older I got, the more I realised the importance of why we hunt and that was my driving force to continue my hunting learning journey. I'm still no pro but the job gets done. My husband taught me to spearfish about six years ago and I've been addicted ever since. 

  • Importance of Hunting - Image 1

Importance of Hunting

Why is hunting important to you and your family?

As parents, both my husband and I feel a responsibility to teach our boys about having that direct connection to their kai and the natural world. They experience first hand the hard work that goes into the hunt, processing the animal and cooking the food, which in turn provides them with life skills they can then use to teach future generations. Most importantly, hunting teaches our kids about compassion, responsibility, self reliance, patience and respect. 

What are some of the benefits of hunting, collecting and cooking your own kai?

It just tastes better! Wild animals eat a large variety of plants, grasses, nuts, fruits and seeds which add to the flavour and quality of the meat. Hunting, diving, fishing and foraging provides beautiful, organic food that is sustainable, cheap and so good for our bodies. My absolute favourite part of hunting and collecting our own kai is to make a beautiful meal that we can share with friends and whanau, along with the stories of how the kai on our plates came to be.

Passion for Food

Where does your passion for cooking come from?

Definitely my family. Both my grandparents were great cooks and mum is amazing too. I started cooking from a young age. Mum taught me the basics of cooking and I took my passion for food and basically taught myself everything I know.

How did the Kaelah's Wild Kai Kitchen Instagram come about?

I started combining my love of cooking with hunting and diving before social media was a big thing. I figured when you put that much effort into hunting your own food, you may as well cook it up as best as possible. Not only to reward your efforts, but to pay respect to the animal's life and 'complete' the hunter gatherer cycle. I started sharing what I cook on my Instagram page a couple of years ago hoping to help others find different and exciting ways of cooking what they catch.

What are a couple of your favourite hunting/diving/outdoors spots in New Zealand?

Kaikoura is our home and main hunting/diving spot. I love it because we have the sea on one side and mountains on the other. You can be spearfishing in the morning and hunting the hills in the afternoon. You can't beat it.

Do you have a favourite type of food or meal?

I don't really have a favourite type of food, I love too many! Basically anything from mum's kitchen or something that's hearty, comforting with a decent amount of spicy heat then I'm a happy girl.

You can follow Kaelah on Instagram here and on Facebook here.