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Local chef earns honors for his use of molds and mushrooms

The chef and owner of Larder, on Cleveland's west side, has been turning heads and opening up taste buds with his multiple uses of molds and mushrooms in cooking.

CLEVELAND — A local chef has been earning accolades with his place on the west side of Cleveland since the doors opened 18 months ago. One of the big reasons why, is his use of mushrooms and molds in all sorts of food.

“Each mushroom is different and each one grows in a different habitat or symbiotically with a different type of tree or plant,” says Jeremy Umansky as he strolls through the woods looking for mushrooms.

It goes without saying that Umansky loves molds and mushrooms, he’s tried well over 100 different species in his lifetime. The chef and owner of Larder Delicatessen and Bakery was pretty sure others would like them too, even if they didn’t know it yet. So he starting putting different molds and mushrooms in virtually everything in his restaurant.

“Everything from oatmeal cream pie cookies to our rye bread and our buttermilk bread have an extract of mold in them. Our pastrami, our fried chicken sandwich and any of our pickles that we make. We make sodas out of mushrooms here. Even a lot of culinarians were like, ‘wow, that’s pretty cool.’ We’re literally powered by mold,” says Umansky.

His mushroom and mold infatuation has been paying off. Larder has won a host of honors and awards in just 18 short months, including being nominated by the James Beard Foundation for best new restaurant in America, being named culinary innovator of the year by Certified Angus Beef and named one of the best deli’s in the country by Food and Wine Magazine.

When asked about all the honors, Umansky just shrugs and says, “We’re doing something right.”

No matter what happens in the kitchen, for this certified wild mushroom expert everything starts with the hunt. He says there are mushrooms all over Ohio but be sure to know where you can and can’t go.

“Metroparks are off limits. Certain cities have different regulations on whether or not you can harvest different things from their parks or not. We always say, call them. There’s also better judgement places too, in an environment like this where there are some trails, we stay away from the first foot or 2 of a trial. That’s the dog pee zone,” says Umansky.

If you’re not sure about mushrooms, Jeremy’s advice is to not be afraid and keep an open mind, because the possibilities are endless.

“The great thing is that mushrooms are everywhere, just once you start looking, that’s when you see them. For people that say they don’t like mushrooms, there’s many different types of mushrooms out there for you to try. Keep an open mind. They’re great for you too.

If you're interested in learning more about mushrooms here in Ohio, they offer classes at Larder and offer free mushroom identification services from 3 to 6 p-m, Tuesday through Friday. You can learn more by clicking here.