Q&A: Iso Rabins, Gourmet Hunter-Gatherer
Iso Rabins, founder of ForageSF, started a foraging group in the Bay Area because he enjoys the sport of getting food in true foodie fashion: straight from the source, not from a factory. Just because it's eco-friendly, doesn't mean it can't be gourmet. In fact, the local community eats it up, literally.
Rabin's Wild Food Walks, where he teaches people urban foraging, are sold out until the end of July. Underground Market, which he started for beginning food entrepreneurs (foragers and otherwise), attracts more than 300 vendors and 50,000 attendees. At Wild Kitchen, a weekly three-course supper club he hosts in a different location each time, 60 participants gather to devour eight courses of artisanal fare.
There are many barriers that beginners in the food business face, but Rabins wants to help enable artisans and the community to connect through food. His latest project? Forage Kitchen, a co-working space for artisanal food entrepreneurs. Sierra caught up with Rabins to find out about his foraging passion and his many undertakings.
Sierra: How did you start foraging for food?
Iso Rabins: Four years ago, I met some mushroom foragers in Northern California near my dad's house in Eureka, and it kinda started from there.
What's your favorite thing to forage?
Wild boar. And abalone. I've really gotten into free diving to catch them.
I was following my own interest in foraging foods, and it just expanded. I started Wild Kitchen because I have my own interest in cooking. Then I started Underground Market, because of the trouble I had with farmer's markets and not being able to get in. Forage kitchen started as an extension of that. It creates a space that I wish I'd had when I started out.
What kind of challenges were you facing that made you want to start Forage Kitchen?
My problems were specific to foraged foods. I couldn't be in a farmers' market because you have to be the primary producer of whatever you sell. I knew a lot of other people who didn't have that specific problem-- people who didn't work out of a commercial kitchen, didn't know where to start and got discouraged.
Why do you want to break down barriers for food production?
I've never done anything that I've enjoyed as much. It's something a lot of people want to do. People work in jobs they hate because they're scared to reach out there, scared of not knowing what to do and if they're going to be successful. It makes it easier for them to make that jump. You give someone a chance to get their food out in front of people and see what they think. There isn't any central space where the food community can all come around. I want to make a place where people interested in food can see what the producer side is doing and take classes with them.
Read more: Check out our roundup of books about urban foraging.
--Image by iStockphoto/emesilva
Krislyn Placide is an editorial intern at Sierra going into her fourth year of journalism school at Northwestern University. When she's not updating the blog, she likes running through parks and eating her weight in watermelon.