When you usually think of traditional Culinary Schools, many form the idea of students in a kitchen surrounded by ovens, stoves, knifes, and ingredients of all sorts. Although not quite the contrary at Oregon Culinary Institute, faculty throw in a few more ingredients to polish the perfect experience for their students.
It was a brisk and sunny Friday morning in Oregon’s Tillamook Forest as OCI (Oregon Culinary Institute) students prepared to do some fall mushroom hunting instead of their typical in-class instruction. Leading the pack were OCI Culinary Artistry instructors, Chef Brophy and Chef Cronwell.
It’s an OCI tradition that started years ago, and an experience both Chefs and students look forward to each term. Taking students out to a local farm, beach, or forest to gain an in-depth feel for where some of the proteins, vegetables, and herbs used in every day kitchens, naturally come from. In this case, the focus and hunt were for wild mushrooms, which according to Chef Brophy, grow well in conifer forests like the Tillamook.
While hunting and directing students where to search, Chef Brophy explains how the components they search for, end up in certain areas in the first place. He explains how there is always a time and place to collect certain ingredients whether it be clams, berries, or in this case... mushrooms. And although all “edible once”, Chef Brophy advised which wild mushrooms students should take home and cook, versus ones that probably wouldn’t be in their best interest.
Within a couple hours of mushroom hunting, many students met their “mushroom quota” for the day. But foraging for fresh wild ingredients worked up an appetite. Chef Brophy and Cronwell led a student run cookout with corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs, chili, brownies, and of course… the iconic chanterelle mushrooms found that very day. The learning didn’t stop there either. Students were taught how to use a huge propane torch (a.k.a. “The Dragon”) to toast up the corn.
At the end of the day students not only walk away with leftovers, but memories and new bonds created between fellow peers and their chef instructors.