The Gear, the Books, and the Know-How to Finally Get Into Foraging
Viet Pham reconnects with his love of cooking outdoors on a new Hulu series. Here he shares his gifting tips for aspiring foragers.
Viet Pham grew up in the Bay Area with parents who adored cooking, instilling in him a curiosity for cuisine at a young age. After working under award-winning chefs like Laurent Gras, Pham went on to open Forage Restaurant and Pretty Bird in Salt Lake City, and has since earned multiple nominations for Best Chef: Southwest from the James Beard Foundation.
Pham has competed on countless culinary competition shows, including Iron Chef America, but his latest appearance, on Hulu’s Chefs Vs. Wild, brings him back to his true love: the outdoors. The series pairs chefs with survival experts, who are then tasked with hunting, fishing, and foraging their way to delicious meals.
Here are some of Pham’s tips on how to start foraging and cooking both safely and deliciously out in the wilderness, whether you’re cozied up in a cabin getaway or exploring your own backyard.
What’s your No. 1 tip to start foraging?
Read as many books as you can about the region that you live in. Oftentimes your local community college or continuing adult education schools have classes on beginner’s foraging, too.
What books do you recommend as gifts?
My favorite mushroom identification book is All That the Rain Promises and More. It has a goofy cover page, but covers Western mushrooms really well. Another one of my go-to books is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. And for plants I love Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide, by Thomas S. Elias.
What tool can you not live without?
My Opinel mushroom-foraging knife. It has a folding curved blade on one end, and a brush on the other, perfect for brushing off dirt from the mushrooms I find.
Best meal you’ve cooked in the wild?
I love to fish, and to me there is nothing better than roasting a fresh-caught trout over juniper branches. The flavor of the juniper imparts a wonderful flavor to the trout while the embers burn really hot, allowing you to crisp up the trout skin.
What’s an easy way to bring those flavors into a holiday meal?
Smoking is such a big element of being outdoors, which is why I love it so much. It conveys a sense of place and time. For people that don’t have access to smoking equipment or are stuck in a city, you can go outside and gather some pine needles or go buy juniper berries, which are easily found in the spice aisle of a grocery store. You can pickle the pine needles and add them to a vinaigrette to capture the pine essence. And with juniper berries, you can mince or crush them and put them into a sauce or vinaigrette. This way, you can really capture mountain flavors in your dish without the smoke.