Who is behind Gentleman Forager?
Gentleman Forager started with one enthusiastic entrepreneur working alone to cultivate and sell his own clone of wild oyster mushrooms to high-end restaurants. After Mike Kempenich sold his first tub of fresh, specialty mushrooms to a very happy chef, who was eager for more, he fruitfully grew the business over the next ten years. His first humble, mushroom growing operation was a converted one-car garage. His customers multiplied fast and he soon moved to a 3,500-square-foot warehouse putting out 1,000 pounds of cultivated specialty mushrooms per week. At that same time, Mike harvested and sold wild-foraged mushrooms found in the vast forests of Minnesota.
He eventually created an additional customer base and greatly expanded his company’s brand by offering wild mushroom guiding services, mushroom identification courses he taught at both the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin extensions, and hosting large foodie-related events with a focus on wild and unique foods. Later, he owned and operated a storefront complete with a large, 15-foot, glass, LED-lighted mushroom growing chamber that became a local and national attraction at a popular food market called Forest to Fork.
While Forest to Fork continues to expand its cultivation of specialty mushrooms for retail markets, today, Mike’s focus is back to Gentleman Forager and all things foraging while leaving the cultivation to Forest to Fork. This includes educational classes, a new mobile restaurant project called “Gentleman Forager Eats” to launch in Minneapolis Spring 2021, events, developing novel and delicious mushroom food products and, of course, lots of foraging!