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Tastemakers: Malcolm Clark, Mushroom Man

Dubbed "the Indiana Jones of mycology," Malcolm Clark of Gourmet Mushrooms, in Sebastopol, California, is a fungi-seeking adventurer. For the past 30 years, he's been rooting out undiscovered species of mushroom in places as far flung as the rain forests of Bali and the slopes of the Himalayas, learning how to cultivate them and introducing them to chefs. It all began in the late 1960s, when the Scottish-born biologist traveled to Japan to study judo and met the country's leading mycologist, Tsuneto Yoshii. "I was fascinated that he was trying to grow mushrooms for cancer treatment," Clark recalls. Inspired, Clark learned how to farm shiitake and became the first to introduce fresh ones to the West. Today he sells over 15 kinds of mushrooms: varieties such as black trumpets, hedgehogs and chanterelles, as well as some he has found, such as Clam Shells, Cinnamon Caps and Pom Pom Blancs. His mushrooms, served at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and Picasso in Las Vegas, can also be shipped to home cooks (707-823-1743). With so many kinds, where does one start? Proving that there is no love like the first love, Clark says "A well-grown shiitake is hard to beat."

--Susan Choung

Published July 2001
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