Few events excite Manhattan's top chefs more than the arrival of a care package from Evan Strusinski, a foraging savant who stalks the remote woods and coastlines of the Northeast for nature's most exotic ingredients. Here are photographer Andrew Hetherington's images from a day with Strusinski in the forests of coastal Maine. To learn more about the life of a food forager, read Richard Conniff's October 2011 piece "Pan-Seared Hama Hama Sea Rocket Topped with Toothwort Roots & Aged Lichen."Evan Strusinski, who makes his living foraging wild foods.
- Strusinski began foraging when a summer-camp counselor pointed to a picture of a plant in a Euell Gibbons book and said, "Find some of this."
- His high-end foraging began in 2009, when he was working as a waiter at an upscale restaurant in Camden, Maine.
- The combination of extraordinary wild foods backed up with encyclopedic knowledge is one reason chefs have come to rely on Strusinski.
- The destinations of the packages he ships one day include some of the most highly regarded restaurants in New York City: Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern, Mario Batali's Del Posto, David Chang's Momofuku Ko and Ssäm Bar, Franny's in Brooklyn, and trendy newcomers Atera and Torrisi Italian Specialties.
- "He's a total superstar in New York," one visitor explains. "All the crazy-famous chefs really adore him."
- Because there is no conventional market for the stuff he sends, prices can get pulled out of the sky.
- Strusinski finds things by not quite looking for them: "I'm just scanning. If you put an image of the thing in your mind, you're looking through a filter. You're not going to find it, because it's not going to match your image."
- The rest of the world may be content to get 80 percent of its agricultural tonnage from a dozen dull, reliable plants—corn, wheat, rice, and the like. But Strusinski lives to find strange and tasty (or sometimes just strange) new things for dinner.
- Everywhere, he stops to peer into yards and woods that are known to have produced morels or chanterelles in previous years. "These spots that I have, they're like my children," he explains. "I have to check in on them. I feel their pull."
- Start over