Top Photo - Harvesting wild mustard seeds to make gourmet mustard using homemade wine, mugwort beer vinegar and homemade sea salt from sea water.
Gathering Mission Olives in Los Angeles.
Primitive fermentation and carbonation using local plants.
Pascal Baudar is a writer, naturalist and a self-styled “culinary alchemist” based in Los Angeles. His passion is to study wild edibles and research new culinary uses through ancient and traditional methods of food preservation as well as contemporary cooking techniques. He also did the Master Food Preserving / Food Safety Advisor program at the University of California in 2011.
From 2011 to 2014, his truly unique preserves, drinks and various wildcrafted condiments made their way into the kitchens of such star chefs as Ludo Lefebvre, Josiah Citrin, Ari Taymor, Michael Voltaggio, Chris Jacobson, Matthew Biancaniello (Eat Your Drinks) and Niki Nakayama (N/Naka restaurant)
He has served as a wild food consultant for several TV shows including MasterChef and Top Chef Duels. He has been featured in numerous TV shows and publications, including Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, and the New York Times.
In 2014, he was named one of the 25 most influential tastemakers in L.A. by Los Angeles magazine and in 2017 as offering one of the most innovative culinary classes.
In 2015 he wrote the "The New Wildcrafted Cuisine", basically a book of culinary concepts and ideas featuring recipes and preservation techniques using a local terroir and just finished a book about traditional and primitive brewing (beers, wines, meads and so on).
These days he is focusing on writing and education, exploring creative uses of wild yeast and bacteria for fermentation (lacto-fermentation, etc...), research old methods of food preservation and traveling to expand his knowledge of plants.
Pascal also offers classes and workshops about wild edibles and their culinary/medicinal uses. He has a particular slant on wildcrafting by focusing mostly on the culinary uses of non-native and invasive plants while also growing native plants.
His philosophy is that conscious wildcrafting should be able to help the environment.
The types of classes and workshops Pascal provide includes:
Primitive beers using local plants and wild yeast.
Wild fermentation (lacto fermentation using local edibles)
Making vinegar using local acetii bacteria
Ancient methods of making wines using wild berries and fruits
Homemade Country wines
Naturally fermented and organic sodas
Traditional pickling methods
"Viking/Celtic" beer using hot stones, grains and traditional brewing plants
Cooking in clay
Sourdough making and harvesting local bacteria
Exploring the use of barks, roots and leaves (culinary and medicinal)
Making your own butter and compound butters with commercial or wild plants
Introduction to Entomophagy and cooking insects.
Modern canning methods (waterbath and pressure canning)
Unique wildcrafted condiments (mustard, hot sauces, gourmet salts, spice blends, etc..)
Artisanal cheese making using plants rennets (Fig sap, nettles, lemons, etc...)
Harvesting wild yeast and making yeast starters for beers, wines and sodas
Making bitters (Mixology)
Cold infusions (plants macerated in cold water for drinks and food pairing)
Plants walks - edible, medicinal and useful plants
His classes and workshops are not limited to California and have been offered in many other states (Arizona, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Oregon) and abroad (Belgium, France). Contact him if your institution is interested.
His other skills includes 25 years as a graphic designer, food and fashion photography.
About Wildcrafting (from magazine interview)
I don't see myself as a "forager" but more as a culinary explorer and wildcrafter.
The difference is subtle but important - Wildcrafting is not about taking from nature but working with it and even helping the environment. It's not a new concept, there is an excellent book on the subject called "Tending the wild" by M. Kat Anderson which explains how humans used to interact with the wilderness. In my recent travels, I've seen some great examples of harmonious relationship between man and nature where both benefited.
Wikipedia has an excellent definition for wildcrafting:
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food or medicinal purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas. Ethical considerations are often involved, such as protecting endangered species.
When wildcrafting is done sustainably with proper respect, generally only the fruit, flowers or branches from plants are taken and the living plant is left, or if it is necessary to take the whole plant, seeds of the plant are placed in the empty hole from which the plant was taken. Care is taken to only remove a few plants, flowers, or branches, so plenty remains to continue the supply.
Factually in California and many other states, the vast majority of what people will find as wild edibles are non natives and invasive plants such as lamb's quarter, nettles, curly dock, many types of mustard, figs, chervil, fennel, horehound, mallow, sweet white clover, olives, wild radish, filaree, perennial pepperweed, nasturtium, wood sorrel, London rocket, grasses and countless others. In fact many of these plants have effectively destroyed some parts of our environment. Locally, in Topanga Canyon we have forests overtaken by nasturtium and where I live, wild mustard is covering our local hills.
I believe conscientious wildcrafting can help the environment by removing non-native plants and help restoring it by sowing native plants to replace them or creating your own garden. As such I also work with local nurseries and continue educating myself on the proper care of plants.
Presently, my wildcrafting is mostly done on private properties (over 2000 acres featuring different types of eco-systems) and often from my own native plants gardens but I don't mind removing invasive plants such as mustards, wild radish, perrenial pepperweeds and so on wherever I can find them. Most of the time, they're really gourmet food and I tend to concentrate on those in my research and cuisine.
I think the current popularity of exploring the culinary uses of wild edibles is a good thing if done properly. Some of the top restaurants in the world (Noma, D.O.M, Faviken, etc...) have pioneered the idea of truly using a local terroir and flavors with success. Maybe one day, hopefully soon, some farm fields will again be full of the same local plants, trees and berries they removed originally to grow non-native ingredients. I think it's an idea worth exploring.