Chef goes foraging for wild mushrooms after recent rains
January’s storms brought havoc to metropolitan Sacramento, trashing public parks and smashing houses and cars around town. But in the region’s hills, all that rain meant mushrooms, to the joy of foragers such as Tyler Bond.
A partner in Arden Arcade’s Lemon Grass Restaurant, Bond has developed a reputation around the local culinary scene for both his cooking and his ability to find delicious wild mushrooms.
Bond treks through the hillsides of Napa, Sonoma and Contra Costa counties, searching for fungal delicacies after heavy rains. With a friend and a full day of hiking, he can come back with 40 pounds of mushrooms, he said.
Before Bond joined the 33-year-old Thai/Vietnamese restaurant, he cooked at Selland Family Restaurants locations around Sacramento — The Kitchen, Ella Dining Room & Bar, Selland’s MarketCafe.
Then-Ella chef Kelly McCown, now the head honcho at The Kitchen, first encouraged Bond to incorporate wild foods into his cooking about 12 years ago. Four years ago, Selland Family Restaurants CEO Josh Nelson took him out foraging for morels. He was hooked.
“Being out in nature and foraging for something we can actually use in my craft, I thought that was super beneficial,” Bond said. “When Josh started taking me for morels, it was all over. I knew there was something there.”
Since then, Bond has become as well-known for his mushroom foraging as his cooking among certain local chefs. He searches for chanterelles, black trumpets and hedgehogs during the winter, then turns his focus to morels come spring.
Those mushrooms look and taste very different from each other, but they have one thing in common: they’re difficult to cultivate commercially because they rely on trees and root structures.
“That’s why they’re a special product. You can’t make them, you have to find them,” said
Bond, one of the 2022 Tower Bridge Dinner chefs.
Because Bond doesn’t have a business license to sell mushrooms, he can’t accept payment from local restaurants. He shares his bounty with friends such as Brad Cecchi of Canon, Scott Ostrander of Origami Asian Grill, Deneb Williams of Allora, Takumi Abe of Kodaiko Ramen & Bar and Nick Duren of Willow.
If those creative chefs decide to put Bond’s mushrooms on their menus, hey, more power to ‘em. He can’t serve them at Lemon Grass, where customers tend to be older and less interested in having their palates challenged, he said.