By Chef Alexa Weeks

Surviving in the wilderness would no longer be a problem for participants of the Foraging for Chefs event that took place on May 19 at the Saddlebock Brewery in Springdale, Arkansas. Foraging, or searching for food in nature, has become a trend in the United States. However, many are nervous to forage because it can be difficult to identify certain plants and differentiate them from their possibly poisonous counterparts. We felt this would be a great educational opportunity for our customers and local chefs. It was a great way to engage with the community beyond the role of a strategic supplier.

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With this in mind, in cooperation with the Research Chefs Association* (RCA), Symrise NA invited interested executives, customers and RCA members from the region to an informational event that provided clarification on foraging and gave participants the chance to share their experiences.

The workshop was led by Ben Starr, a locally well-known chef, beer and wine maker, and restaurant co-owner, who also is an expert on foraging and knows the region around Springdale very well. Ben has appeared on network television multiple times, cooked for and with some of the world's most famous chefs, and his restaurant FRANK is the highest Yelp-rated restaurant in Texas, boasting a 7,000 person waiting list. FRANK restaurant is know for often serving foraged ingredients.

Where and when do edible plants grow? And what kinds of plants are they? What do I have to keep in mind when foraging and what risks are associated with it?  The guests learned everything they needed to know about foraging in the wilderness and were very excited about the event. Last but not least: Even the dishes served during the following dinner included mushrooms from the region – freshly foraged by Ben Starr, who arrived early to do just that.

On the menu was spring salad, a charcuterie board, braised chicken thighs and foraged soup. You can find the foraged soup recipe below.

Cloud Ear and Wild Onion Foraged Soup

  • 8 oz Cloud ear mushrooms
  • 8 oz Wild onion
  • 32 oz Shitake mushrooms
  • 32 oz Vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup Hoisin
  • ¼ cup Soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Gochujang
  • 3 Tbs Butter

1. Thoroughly rinse the cloud ear mushrooms at least 3 times, changing the water every time. Roughly chop the mushrooms into large strips.

2. Trim the stems off of the wild onion plants. Trim the stem into 3 inch long pieces. The tops can be reserved and used as a garnish for other dishes.

3. Slice the shitake mushrooms into ¼ inch strips.

4. Sauté the cloud ear mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and wild onions separately with the butter until lightly brown and very aromatic. Note: The cloud ear mushrooms will make loud “popping” sounds as they cook.

5. Combine all ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a simmer for 1 hour.


Click HERE to check out last month's Culinary Chronicles: Savory Cocktails

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