COSTA MESA — Red, yellow and orange bell peppers were being chopped alongside iceberg lettuce. Juicy red strawberries were sliced, dainty mushrooms cut up.
A stew of elk and lamb meat bubbled inside industrial-sized metal pots while steam rushed from others.
Corona del Mar High School sophomore AJ Fischer, 15, worked in the middle of the active kitchen, mixing the ingredients for meatballs made from elk, venison and antelope as volunteers and kitchen staff prepared to feed hundreds.
"It's crazy-hectic in here," he said.
AJ, his family and members of his Boy Scout Troop 339 infiltrated the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen to make a special meal of wild game and fish on Friday afternoon for the needy, many of whom are homeless.
They cooked up white sea bass; a venison and elk stroganoff with onions, tomatoes, garlic and mushroom; wild game steaks and meatballs in vegetable soup.
"We're kind of going with what meat they brought me," said Someone Cares chef Lorrie Sanchez.
Although AJ helped cook for the special meal, making it happen was a months-long affair for his Eagle Scout project. Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest honor in Scouting and only a small percentage of Scouts ever achieve it.
The soup kitchen on 19th Street will be treated to a meal of wild game once a year now, as AJ's troop decided to make it an annual event.
The idea for the project came from AJ's own life — hunting and fishing are things he's passionate about.
The Costa Mesa resident grew up in a family of hunters and learned to never waste what they killed.
"That's our rule," said AJ's father, Alvin Fischer. "If you hunt or catch it, you eat it."
It was his aunt, a member of Safari Club International, who told him about the hunting organization's program, Sportsmen Against Hunger, which donates extra meat to food banks.
AJ got the group's Orange County chapter to donate about 350 pounds of venison, elk meat, lamb, antelope and white sea bass.
AJ said some of the more gamey meats are an acquired taste, but when prepared right, it can't be tasted.
Wild meat tends to be more natural and organic than meat raised on commercial ranches and farms, said AJ's mother, Portia Fischer.
"It's actually way healthier meat than, you know, getting a burger at McDonald's," she said. "It's just a very healthy alternative."