Elise Wiggins grew up with a gun in her hands. A .410 shotgun, to be precise, that Wiggins’ father taught her how to shoot near their West Monroe, Louisiana, home when she was about six years old. Her first kill was a blackbird, but by the time she was eight, she was hunting gray squirrels and other small game. You can watch as Wiggins draws on those experiences and her 25 years as a chef (currently at Cattivella in Stapleton) in her new Rocky Mountain PBS show, Roots to Ranches, which premieres at the Sie FilmCenter this month. (The full first season begins airing in January 2020.)

Cattivella chef Elise Wiggins. Photo by Sarah Boyum

Roots to Ranches’ first episode features—what else?—Louisiana squirrel hunting, although this time Wiggins brings along Cattivella sous chef Zuri Resendiz. “My dad taught me that if you are going to kill something, you have to eat it and respect the animal that made that sacrifice,” Wiggins says. “Never waste anything.” That nose-to-tail philosophy permeates the six-episode first season, during which Wiggins travels across the South hunting, foraging, and visiting farms and ranches where livestock and produce are responsibly raised. (Filming for the show’s second season, which focuses on the Southern Rocky Mountains, including spots in Colorado, has already begun.) She cooks what she catches, kills, or gathers—be it frogs or guinea hen, crawfish or pokeweed—interweaving her culinary prowess with cultural and historical context.

Wiggins hunting in Roots to Ranches. Photo courtesy of Sean Ender

“I want to break the mold,” Wiggins says of the experiential travel and cooking show. “I want to educate people about these interesting ingredients, where they come from, and how to prepare them. I want to inspire people to learn to hunt or forage with a local expert or start urban farming. If everybody ate what they procured themselves, even just a few times a year, we’d have less waste for sure—and a better environment too.”

First Look: Watch the Roots to Ranches premiere at the Sie FilmCenter on Friday, November 15, at 7:30 p.m. Find more information on ticket prices and pre-screening events online.

This article was originally published in 5280 November 2019.
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.