Seeking Fresh and Local in a Concrete Jungle

A chef's perspective on having a resident forager.

Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez is the Executive Pastry Chef at PRINT. Restaurant in New York City.

It’s been an amazing learning experience having a full-time in-house forager. Johanna Kolodny came to PRINT. with an amazing amount of knowledge and education in many facets of food, sustainability and countless other areas. 

Johanna shares an office with Charles Rodriguez, the Executive Chef and me, keeping our food conversation going all day, every day. She has brought to our attention everything from what other foragers are doing, and proper slaughterhouse practices, to what level of quality we are willing to work with.

Accessibility to Johanna has brought us into  better communication with farmers and artisans, and made our jobs a little easier. This is something that we could have worked on ourselves, but with the amount of time we need to spend in a new kitchen that serves an 80-seat fine dining restaurant, banquets at our roof bar, and the room service for the hotel, we wouldn’t have time to both make the introductions or nurture relationships in such a short time.

With Johanna’s help, we have been able to take on projects in PRINT.’s infancy such as being the pick up location for the Hell’s Kitchen CSA, being asked to take part in the James Beard Foundation’s first roundtable for sustainability and taking part in events that as chefs reared in the fine dining world of New York City, we were unaware of but more than thrilled to be invited to attend.

There have certainly been adjustments that have had to be made in creating a system that includes an in-house forager but I would never call it a difficulty.   There is a balance that we have strike to both serve our customers the best cuisine possible with the best service as well as stick to the farming practices we believe in.  We are in the hospitality business and though Johanna would argue otherwise, and we agree with her, it is difficult to tell a hotel guest he can’t have a tomato with his grass-fed burger in February.

Our ordering is much more fluid.  There is much more give with what we order and what actually comes in when delivered.  A rainstorm, a drought or any other act of nature can change everything.  It’s up to us and Johanna to figure out what to do about it.  It  creates a more educated team.

This education spreads to the Front of the House staff as well.   They’re able to learn right from Johanna and find out not just about the food but the people that grew it, raised it.   Many of the farmers come to eat here when they’re in town and because of this staff education, are treated like VIPS and bombarded with questions from the waitstaff. 

In turn, we are educating Johanna about cuisine and the restaurant lifestyle. 

I think it’s been a pay-off for all.