The Bon Appétit at Whitman Team Gets Funky During Mushroom Demonstration

a variety of locally grown mushrooms

Mushrooms for the demo were supplied by Chesed Farms, a Farm to Fork partner of the Bon Appétit at Whitman team.

On a recent visit to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, I partnered with Executive Chef Jon Sodini and Whitman’s Mycology Club to hold a mushroom-focused cooking demonstration.

Jon regularly leads cooking classes for Whitman’s Cooking and Baking Club on campus, but he was excited to hold his first event with the Mycology Club. Jon has long been interested in mushrooms, having grown up in Portland Oregon, a place ripe for mushroom foraging. Between that background and his experience as a professional chef, he did a fantastic job explaining the culinary, agricultural, and medicinal significance of the mushrooms he cooked.

I assisted Jon as he walked attendees through four very different mushroom recipes. He showed them how to make a lion’s mane mushroom tea with mint and honey – a delicious and purportedly medicinal beverage. He also explained how to pickle oyster mushrooms safely, noting that they go great over noodles or sushi rice paired with local radishes and microgreens.

Executive Chef Jon Sodini and West Coast Fellow Hillary Swimmer pose during the demonstration.

Executive Chef Jon Sodini and West Coast Fellow Hillary Swimmer pose during the demonstration.

Next was the main course, a king oyster mushroom ragu, which also happens to be a popular dish for catered events on campus. Jon topped sliced, toasted bread with the ragu and crème fraiche, then handed it out for students to sample, explaining it could also be eaten with pasta or winter squash.

Lastly, Jon made seared king oyster mushrooms. He showed how to score the mushrooms with criss-crossing cuts before cooking them. He then paired the seared mushrooms with a salad, but also noted they go perfectly with steaks, risotto, and pasta, too. The students in attendance were impressed by mushrooms’ versatility and the way they could easily fit into a wide variety of recipes.

The event was also made special by the fact that all of the mushrooms used in the demonstration were purchased from Chesed Farms, a Farm to Fork partner to the Bon Appétit at Whitman team. Several Chesed Farms employees even came to the demonstration to witness their beautiful mushrooms being prepared.

The event was a fantastic example of what can happen when a Bon Appétit team, campus community, and local farmers come together.