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."