FOOD AND WINE MAGAZINE recently dubbed it “the next locavore sensation,” but here in Seattle, we’re well acquainted with wild-food foraging. For this we can thank Jeremy Faber, whose food-supply company Foraged and Found Edibles has been a fixture at local markets for years (his ’shrooms and stalks are a fixture on local restaurant menus, too). But you’re more likely to stumble upon an unpicked patch of mountain porcini than to snag a gab session with the retiring forager.
“I first met Jeremy when I was doing a story for Seattle Met,” says writer Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, a set of essays about gathering edibles. “We went foraging in the springtime. It took a lot of patience. He always seemed to have something going on, like a broken-down truck, a cat needing to be fed….” Not being nearly as patient as Cook, we turned to Faber’s nearest and dearest to get the goods on the elusive wild man.
“I’ve known Jeremy for over 10 years,” says Christina Choi, owner of Nettletown restaurant and cocreator of Foraged and Found. “We cooked together at the Herbfarm. Jeremy first foraged as a hobby.” Hobby morphed into obsession and Faber left the restaurant biz to pursue foraging full time with a plan to sustain himself by hawking his sylvan bounty at local markets. “It was an education,” recalls Choi. “We sat on waiting lists. People didn’t know much about mushrooms.” They sold their first fungi at the Columbia City Farmers Market, and ultimately worked their way up to coveted stall space in the University District and Ballard.
On free days, Faber hits the woods with pal Matthew Dillon, chef at Sitka and Spruce and the Corson Building. “We actually hated each other at first,” recalls Dillon. “But skiing and mushroom hunting became our bond.” They even spent some time as roommates, along with Dillon’s dog Che (Faber was Che’s godfather) who would accompany them into the woods. “He and I were picking in 2002,” recalls Dillon. “We took two or three days off, picking on hillsides, having incredible meals like steak. Not your typical camping food. Che would run back and forth checking in with each of us.
“By the time the trip was over we were tired, hungry, and covered in soot. So we stopped at this hamburger spot on the way home, covered in black. We looked like we came out of a moonscape.”