In honor of Earth Month, we’re celebrating chefs and restaurants right in our own backyard that are crushing the sustainability game, with their unique values that nourish the earth as well as those who inhabit it.
But today’s spotlight—Karl Holl—not only holds a deep respect for nature and the well-being of our planet. He believes food that is foraged, grown or raised by one's own hands is the ultimate expression of connectivity to the earth—creating a holistic sense of community rooted in nourishment and a sense of duty to protect the planet that abundantly feeds us.
Karl grew up in a small town in Vermont, cooking alongside his Oma in her restaurant—sparking a love for food that came from a place of passion, heritage and heart. As Karl’s career grew and flourished, his values remained true. He’s perpetually dedicated to utilizing food and ingredients that were grown and raised with his own two hands, on his own farm. And this commitment shines through in his business, Forager Goods & Company, and at his restaurant, Spatzle & Speck.
But how does this farm-to-plate chef and entrepreneur who wears countless hats prepare for productive days foraging, farming and creating beautiful meals? Let’s find out:
MISE: What is your mise en place/prep routine like as a chef?
KH: "Given I am a chef in a variety of kitchens as well as in the woods, I feel like I get to take a non-traditional approach with my mise en place, and it starts long before working with food. With my settings changing all of the time, I first check out my environment and set the stage with all of my tools and equipment. Is my spoon bain in place? Are the ovens all on? How long will it take to get the campfire lit? Is my pasta pot full? When everything I need non-food wise is ready to go, the flow for the rest of the day feels set and always has me sitting in a good place. And by doing this, I feel like I can get more creative and consider the possibilities of what I can actually execute over a stove or a campfire.”
MISE: What are your favorite things to forage for? And what inspired you to begin foraging?
KH: “Mushrooms. Of every kind. My love for foraging started in Napa Valley, working at Martini House, where we did a year-round mushroom tasting menu and I was able to learn how to forage from my Chef. After a few months of working with mushrooms, I was totally hooked and now I can't see a way of cooking without foraged ingredients through my food. My menus are often inspired by what I am finding in the forest, and you would be hard pressed at this point to find a dish that doesn't include something from my hours in the woods!”
MISE: What are some of the special and sustainable ways in which Forager Goods & Company sources their materials and ingredients? And what values are you most proud of?
KH: “Our whole goal with Forager Goods & Company is to work with like-minded partners. And that means everything from sourcing things like natural dyes and sustainable cotton when developing our gear, to working with companies who are excited to make an impact on the environment with us. We will always donate a portion of our sales to forest conservation non-profits and want to work with others who are excited about driving business to support those efforts of giving back. I also love sharing my knowledge and appreciation of Mother Earth and all she has to offer! When we responsibly spend time in the outdoors, whether it’s in the field or forest, it is amazing what we can find to seasonally nourish ourselves, while also caring for our planet.”