It seems the foraging craze beloved by Danish chef René Redzepi has hit the US; according to the New York Times, it's not enough to grow ingredients anymore, now you have to find them. Chefs like David Chang of New York's Momofuku restaurants, Jeff Ross at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee and Matthew Lightner of Portland's Castagna are all about using foragers to get the most unusual new flavors on their menus.
This isn't just about going out to the parking lot and grabbing some weeds growing between the cracks in the pavement, though. Chefs and foragers are held to "an unwritten code" when it comes to where they forage. In fact, René Redzepi was recently criticized for foraging in London's Hampstead Heath as a promotional event for his new cookbook. Environmentalists say he's responsible for "hundreds of people" going to the park in search of mushrooms; they're worried that "if the numbers of foragers continues to rise there will be 'nothing left' and the 340 varieties of wild mushroom could soon be wiped out."
No worries, all you need is a professional forager. Easier said than done, though: apparently they have their pick of chefs to work with the days. As one such New York forager, Adam Kopels, says: "Frankly, it’s arrogance. I have the power, and I’m going to decide who’s worthy. I believe Mark Ladner [of Del Posto] is worthy, and I believe that Mario [Carbone, of Torrisi Italian Specialties] is worthy for no other reason than I said so.” Better start working on your lichen recipes.