Metropolitan Opera Singer/Mushroom Forager
By Joy Manning
Photography By Neal Santos
Fishtown-based Philippe Castagner is a tenor with New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. For roughly 12 weeks each year, he’s focused on his rehearsals and performances. The rest of the time, he spends his days exploring the forests and wooded areas of southeastern Pennsylvania, foraging for wild mushrooms.
His interest in mushrooms began when his ex-wife gave him Washoku, the 2005 cookbook by writer Elizabeth Andoh. “Japanese food is light, and she thought I was too fat,” says Castagner. He was especially drawn to the book’s recipe for mushroom stock because a seafood allergy had always prevented him from enjoying other Asian-style soups. The mushroom recipes in Washoku led him into the woods of Brooklyn, where he lived at the time, to hunt down wild ingredients.
“Foraging is really a hobby for me—opera is my career—but I have been gathering more mushrooms than one person can eat,” says Castagner. This is especially true in the fall, peak season for local fungus. A small roster of restaurants takes the surplus off his hands, including Russet, Fork, and The Farm and Fisherman.
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