Why Mushrooms Are One Of Chef Michael Cimarusti's Favorite Vegetarian Ingredients - Exclusive

Michael Cimarusti has had an incredibly successful career as a chef and restaurant owner in Los Angeles. In addition to his fine-dining restaurant Providence LA, Cimarusti also owns West Hollywood seafood spot Connie and Ted's. While seafood is the focus at both restaurants, sustainability is another core value at the root of Cimarusti's restaurants. 

During an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Michael Cimarusti discussed the importance of sustainability, along with some of the most important practices that his restaurants follow. "We try to fill a menu that is entirely sustainable, and we don't use any farm-raised fish," Cimarusti explained. "We do use lots of farm-raised, zero-input shellfish, like mussels and clams and oysters and things like that. But when it comes to fish, it's only wild."

At Providence LA, Cimarusti even offers a vegetarian menu, ensuring that plant-based diets are accommodated as well. While there are many wonderful vegetables to work with, Cimarusti filled us in on why mushrooms are his top pick. 

Cimarusti's favorite vegetarian course

One of the most interesting things about mushrooms is the fact that there are so many varieties. These fascinating fungi appear in several different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, making them incredibly versatile and unique. That said, it should come as no surprise to learn that Chef Michael Cimarusti's personal favorite vegetarian course usually involves mushrooms. "My favorite courses on the vegetarian menu ... are usually the wild mushroom courses. They change during the seasons," Cimarusti told us. "Right now, we have a vegetarian course on the menu with chanterelle, and we have another one, matsutake ... Wild food, like wild fish, [is] intriguing and wonderful."

While the vegetarian menu obviously highlights this special ingredient, carnivores who opt in for the fall tasting menu at Providence LA are also in for a mushroom-heavy treat. "We just changed our beef course, which is one of the main course choices you have. We're a seafood restaurant, but we offer beef as the main course if you want it," Cimarusti explained. "It involves matsutake mushrooms, habanada peppers, which are pickled and fermented here in the restaurant, and pumpkin."

The magic of mushrooms

Of course, the taste is one of the most important components of a mushroom when it comes to cooking. However, for Michael Cimarusti, the love of mushrooms goes deeper. In fact, the history of and connection to our ancestors are what make these unique specimens so magical. "It's a link to our past. There was a time when all of our ancestors went out foraging for wild foods, whether they were mushrooms or greens or wild fish or wild game," said Cimarusti. "That's where our food used to come from before we domesticated it. The fact that there's still wild fish out there, and there's wild game and things like wild mushrooms — it's the link to our collective past. They're very, very special ingredients for that reason."

Though some ingredients are easy to make delicious, Cimarusti's talent and knack for knowing great food are unmatched, ensuring that any meal made by him will be one to remember. 

Providence LA is open for dining Tuesday through Saturday.