Hunt, Gather, Sauté

Elaine Travels

From the earliest recorded history, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers who foraged for their foodstuffs.

Centuries later, we’ve come full circle and chefs are getting back in touch with their ancestral roots through the practice of foraging to create flavorful culinary dishes served to patrons who prize freshness, local ingredients, and seasonal dishes.

“I love having that element of surprise in my dishes, and wild edibles offer this as there’s so many flavors that come out of them,” says Whitney Flood, chef of Muddy Leek in Culver City, California. “Sour grass has a lemony quality that can replace zest in a dish, while nasturtium leaves are peppery and fresh.”

And, most notably, he says there is a delicate quality to foraged food that is unique to geographic location and environmental setting.

At Muddy Leek—where sustainable, local, organic products are the order of the day—the focus is on bringing the freshest ingredients to the table. And for creating flavorful seasonal dishes, Flood is a strong believer in allowing ingredients to speak for themselves.

As part of his repertoire, Flood forages based on what’s in season. “Right now [late February], I’m looking for little tender greens and starts that are coming up.” Wild fennel including fronds, seeds, pollen, and stalks are excellent with many uses throughout the season.

But his golden prize is the hunt for chanterelles. “I love chanterelles! The earthy, oaky flavor, meaty mouthfeel, and sheer enjoyment of finding them keep me constantly searching.”

Finding Foragers

But not all foraging is done by chefs. There is a unique group of individuals who make their living foraging for chefs and restaurant owners.

Valerie Broussard, food and beverage buyer and forager, works for Trace restaurant in the W Hotel, a silver LEED-certified hotel, in Austin, Texas.

Broussard’s foraging consists of seeking out local and sustainable foods, developing relationships with food purveyors, and gathering forecasts from area farmers in order to inform chefs on availability of products.

She explains, “I am an extension of the chef and can be out in the community, inquiring about who has what, and when and how we can get it into the restaurant.”

Her regular stops include in-town farmers’ markets, as well as Boggy Creek and Springdale Farms farm stands.



Great article! Valerie Broussard is a huge asset to the Austin community and I love hearing that more people are out there foraging in one form or another.

Thanks for explaining about what a professional forager does. Very interesting. And I agree that there's a special quality to foods from local sources. I just experienced it last week at The Pointe Restaurant, Wickanninsh Inn in Tofino where the salad greens are from just up the road in Ucluelet.

Your story is very inspiring. Isn't it interesting that we've gone back to what our ancestors did out of necessity.

Nice article. I have not yet dined at a restaurant that offers foraged items, but would love to!

Interesting. I'd love to find a restaurant that forages for some of the menu offerings.

I haven't run across a restaurant that does this! (I have just started "foraging" for purslane, though!

This is such a hot trend in the food industry. Thanks so much for this excellent article!

Thanks for alerting us to this trend. It is great that chefs are getting out there to find safe foods. Too many restaurants serve genetically-modified today.

Here in Michigan, we're all about the morel mushrooms. Don't ask someone to give up their favorite spot, though. You can't pry it out of them with a crowbar.


Add new comment