15 Minutes With Forager Tyler Gray Of Mikuni Wild Harvest
Tyler Gray is a professional forager and co-founder/owner of one of North America’s leading food purveyors: Mikuni Wild Harvest. Mikuni services a vast roster of celebrated chefs, professional kitchens, and gourmet retail outlets with wild and artisan crafted foods from around the world.
He has been featured in numerous publications such as Men’s Vogue, NY Magazine, and Wine & Spirits. Food & Wine magazine named him a “Tastemaker of the Year”. He has been featured on the Canadian Food Network TV show Chef at Large, and has appeared as a guest judge on the Food Network USA’s Iron Chef America. Tyler recently had the honor of hosting a Black Truffle dinner at the James Beard House and is a little in awe of how their small but passionate company has taken off. Mikuni Wild Harvest has offices in Portland, OR; Las Vegas, NV; New York, NY; and Vancouver, BC.
Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: For the last 2 years I’ve been back and forth from NY…we’re expanding our company there. In NY I typically live in the lower east side….Death & Co cocktails, Momofuku steamed pork buns, & the Bowery Ballroom keep me entertained, well fed & stumbling distance from bed. Lately when I’m in Van I end up staying with my pal Thomas Haas….the obvious perks being a steady supply of tasty chocolates & pastries….that is if I can find where his kids hide them from me, & I am the current reigning champion of the Haas family backyard badminton…which I remind Thomas of every chance I get.
The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Processed cheese on hamburgers…it’s like an additional sauce…I feel so dirty & exposed.
Default drink of choice: The Bourbon Sour is a pretty great default…No one makes them like Charles Forsberg use to at Parkside though, have to go to France to get one now I suppose.
Sexiest fashion item for the opposite sex: cowboy boots typically turn my head, as do poncho’s…but for entirely different reasons.
Favourite wine varietal: Gewurztraminer…I have a sweet tooth
The person you can imitate: I can do the Borat & Bruno…but not usually in public places, unless there are some Bourbon Sour’s involved.
One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: the downtown east side is always heart wrenching to pass through…but not an easy fix.
Bartender who could sell you anything: the fellas at Milk & Honey in the LES can do no wrong…
Cheap place for dinner: Dona Cata’s on Victoria…the best tacos….el pastor, carne enchiladas, carnitas…yes I like the pork and you should really try their horchata – very authentic.
Book you’re reading: there are a few, GK Chesterton’s Father Brown is on the bedside table.and I usually end up reading Jean Valjean, like every year.
Last place traveled: I was in Charleston, South Carolina for the Food & Wine festival last month. It’s maybe my favorite place in the USA right now. So dreamy.
Biggest fear: snakes.
Dumbest purchase ever: a 1961 Chevy Apache Truck…drives like a German tank, it’s a three in the tree transmission, I’m not at all mechanically inclined and it’s consistently breaking down…I love it.
What are you proud of: My siblings and family love me…but more importantly, I think they actually like me. I have some really great friends, my business partners are graceful, fearless and dedicated. I’m a part of building an exciting and passionate company with a really great team of dynamic people, in spite of a working in ridiculously challenging, stressful and “soul crushing industry” (Andrey Durbach’s words…).
Most challenging part of owning a business: Inspiring and motivating employees, cash flow, ten thousand dollar truffles that lose weight by the hour, restaurants that close and owe lot’s of money. I could go on.
Best fine dining restaurant in the city: It would be unwise of me to answer this.
Food your mom makes better than anyone: blackberry jam and freshly baked bread.
Talent you wish you possessed: I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t occasionally count on my fingers, and I spell like a gorilla.
Musical instrument you long to play: I’m in awe of the cello. [ed note: some Rostropovichian Bach for you]
Sport you gave up: Skateboarding, although in a moment of nostalgic glory I recently gave it another go…not at all like riding a bike, the stitches come out soon.
The game you’re best at: Snowboarding and hockey.
Mac or PC: I have a PC…but it looks like a Mac. I’m a poser.
The number of fist fights you’ve been in: One, like 12 years ago, and my knuckle is still swollen. Hitting people hurts, and for the record they started it (yes, I said they).
The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: while I was picking mushrooms up north I ran into a fully grown Grizzly Bear. He started running towards me like a freight train. Words can not express the paralyzing fear…
Three things of no value that you will keep until you die: some books, some photos, some letters.
The thing you’re most ashamed of: Maybe over a couple drinks…
Best concert experience ever: The Frames/Swell Season…so much passion.
Aspect of your personality you wish you could change: There are more than one, but I think life would be much less turbulent if I wasn’t as reactionary.
The thing that makes you the most nervous: Mikuni’s AR report…ouch.
Town you were born in: Sechelt…fond memories.
Quality you admire most in yourself: I think I can juggle a lot of tasks and responsibility while averting major disasters and heart attacks.
Album that first made you love music: that’s a tough one…could be Sigur Ros or Arvo Part. Love music.
The one country that you have no interest in ever visiting: India.
Your top 3 films of all time: Magnolia, Life Is Beautiful & Amelie.
Favourite book as a child: I was all about Robinson Crusoe & Narnia.
This is the 43rd interview of what will eventually amount to 500 profiles of people who have made life in BC that much more interesting. At the rate we’re going it’ll take three years, at which time we’ll probably just start shooting for 1,000.