Thirteen Miles from Farm to Plate

Chef Anthony Scolaro opens up a large box of mushrooms that have just arrived from Valley City Fungi. Perfect and clean, they are beautiful in hues of tan, brown, gold, white, and even a subtle blue. They will be the main component of Chef Anthony’s upcoming Ohio Grown Produce Series dinner, featuring four courses composed of mushrooms (including dessert) at his popular One Eleven Bistro in Medina.

A day or two earlier, the large, spongy mushrooms were hand picked and packed by John Burmeister, a guy who is equal parts scientist and farmer. John has dedicated several years to perfecting his own process of cultivating farm-raised mushrooms in the most sustainable way possible.

John’s farmstead, located in rural Valley City, looks like many other small farms. But inside an unassuming collection of repurposed shipping containers and other structures, he’s crafted a high-tech, low-impact growing lab where various iterations of his mushroom operation take place. He grows several types of mushrooms, including shiitake, blue and golden oyster, turkey tail, hen of the woods, Reishi, and lion’s mane. A few varieties are utilized for medicinal properties, but many of his mushrooms will end up on plates at local restaurants.

John works at a repurposed workstation that originated at Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center.  A HEPA filter purifies and cleanses the air, and double doors keep the environment protected and consistent. He starts with organic spelt grains from another local farmer, which he inoculates with mushroom mycelium. He’ll transfer that spawn to various growing vessels that will remain free of dirt, compost or manure. He’s uses a laboratory autoclave, and lots of petri dishes and flasks are also part of the process long before Mother Nature takes over.

He has built an exceptionally clean environment, including his growing room – picture rows and rows of mushrooms on his own  sterilized sawdust “logs” – which is maintained at a fairly consistent 70 degrees.

Experimentation and patience are most certainly part of the equation; a shiitake takes around two months from petri dish to planting and it isn’t always easy to achieve a consistent yield, but John is always experimenting.  Upon harvesting John has an exceptionally clean product, borne of his carefully controlled environments, that you could pop right into your mouth without concern of the contaminants usually associated with mushroom growing.

Chefs around town understand the quality they are getting and are happy with a smaller yield of an exceptional product. “What John does, I can’t get it from any other distributor. I can tell my customers that my mushrooms are clean, and I know where they come from and who grew them,” Anthony says.

Many of these mushrooms will comprise the latest edition of Chef Anthony’s Ohio Grown Series, which will be available Feb. 21–Feb 25 for $45.

Course 1: Mushroom and salsify salad with crab, mushroom vinaigrette

Course 2: Mushroom risotto, truffle dust, truffle pate, and Locatelli Pecorino Romano (pictured)

Course 3: Dried mushroom-rubbed short rib, miso and celery root puree, pickled shiitake and cabbage mushroom slaw

Course 4: Truffle custard tart, black truffle mousse cake.

“Everything we do – event the syrups, sauces and mixers – we make from scratch using local, seasonal ingredients when we can,” he says.

One Eleven Bistro is located at 2736 Medina Road off Interstate 71. (It is not in the downtown Main Street Medina district, which makes it easier to find). This medium-sized bistro can fill up quickly, so make a reservation on the website.

You’ll find Valley City Mushrooms at other area restaurants including The Greenhouse Tavern, Butcher and the Brewer, Dante, Fat Cats, Corkscrew Saloon, and Main Street Café. He’s also a regular at the Medina Farmers Market.

–Lisa Sands