Mushroom Sourcing with Chef Lorenzo
When your market covers the equivalent of about 40 football fields, you’re best to arrive with a plan, which is why Lorenzo Loseto has his favourite suppliers on text message. The night before his pre-dawn trips to the Ontario Food Terminal, where Loseto loads up on seasonal ingredients for the award-winning Toronto restaurant GEORGE, he messages to find out exactly what they’ll have the next morning, and in what amounts, so that he can ensure he gets to the most in-demand items first.
This morning that means mushrooms, and Loseto heads straight inside to Gambles, inside the soaring warehouse. One by one, he picks up golden chanterelles, wavy and irregular as coral formations and foraged by hand in British Columbia, feeling carefully to ensure they’re dry and firm. He moves on to black trumpets, darker brown fungi that resemble, well, black trumpets, and sourced in nearby Milton, and then meaty porcinis with stalks so thick he can’t quite wrap his hand around them.
As Chef inspects the day’s offerings, Mario Reis, who’s been selling here for 35 years, looks on smiling. “It makes me feel great when chefs buy from me,” he says, noting that this direct connection deepens his own food knowledge. “A lot of times when these mushrooms come along” – at any given time, Gambles has more than 20 varieties of mushrooms on hand, some so rare and exotic, they’re kept under lock and key – “I don’t know what to do with them. The chefs tell me how they cook them.”
Next up, Loseto heads to J.E. Russell, , another long-time supplier at the Food Terminal, where vendor Rui Nunes has been selling varieties such as shiitakes and portobellos for the last five years. From there, it’s more choice bounty and then back to the Honda SUV which Loseto will use to drive his haul back to the kitchen. The back seat and roof rack fill up quickly; those mushrooms – precious cargo – ride up front with Chef.
Back at the restaurant, Loseto and his team unpack and get to work. Those chanterelles and porcinis, along with pine, oyster and shiitaki mushrooms, are sautéed with butter, garlic and shallots, a fragrant stew that is spooned over homemade olive bread, goat cheese mousse and rapini and paired with the perfect wine. Button mushrooms will later go into soups and stock, included for what Loseto refers to as their “natural, flavour-enhancing effect.”
While this seasonal, vegetable-focused approach has earned Loseto culinary awards, he says the way he sources his ingredients is a constant reminder of the unsung hero in this style of cooking.
“People think the cook is the hardest worker,” he says. “But really, it’s the farmer who is the hardest working.”