Feature Vendor Interview – Untamed Feast

Feature Vendor of the week: Untamed Feast
At last week’s market we caught up with Lisa from Untamed Feast.

What do you sell?
We are a wild food harvesting company. We sell wild foods. Wild gourmet foods, mostly wild gourmet mushrooms.

How was the business started? 
Well it’s been a labor of love for the last 10 years. It was started by a couple, Michelle and Eric. They both grew up in Ukrainian families so they learned the ways of the land just kind of hunting for mushrooms. They got really interested in the food movement and all of that kind of stuff living on Vancouver Island. They starting doing this wild harvesting on a larger scale and bringing it to more people. It just started kind of small with Eric and Michelle stomping around in the forest trying to see what they could find and then bringing it to fancy restaurants. This retail line has sprouted out from that.

How did you get involved with Untamed Feast?
I’m family friends with them. Michelle and I went to university together. A big mushroom harvesting place is where my parents live so they go and stay with my parents when they are harvesting there. I have been a part of it in little snips from the beginning. Since they have been featured on Dragons Den it has gotten a little bit bigger and they need more help than they used to.

What is a “must know” or “must try” from Untamed Feast?
Something to know is that the morel mushroom is one of the most highly prized mushrooms in the world. It’s just second after only the French truffle. It’s interesting that a lot of Canadians are not more familiar with the morel mushrooms. A lot of them grow wild here. The reason we don’t see them readily available to us in the grocery stores is because they have such a competitive export market. The usual place for you to capture something like this would be at fancy high priced restaurant where you are paying upwards of thirty or forty dollars for your entre.

What is your favorite thing that you sell? 
Well I am really a when in doubt have it all, kind of girl. We have a lot of specials for when you buy one of everything you often get a few products for free. I don’t know, everything is really good. I mean obviously the morels are really popular. The porcini is a really nice choice for any kind of Italian cooking very classic. Porcini risotto is what we made for the Dragons when we went on Dragons Den in 2012 and they all really loved it. The porcini risotto I’d say is one of my favorites, the wild rice is really delicious as well. It’s all really good.

What do people need to be educated about when it comes to your line of work or the products that you sell?
Well I guess it is interesting to note that we think that wild foods are even better than organic foods. A lot of people ask us if it is organic and how we grow it. All of the varieties of mushrooms that we deal with aren’t able to be cultivated domestically. Because they are growing in really pristine soils and waters the fact is that there are not pesticides or weird fertilizers present. It’s that it’s the most pristine soil, water and air that you can get and that is what the food is drawing off to make itself. In short wild is better than organic.

Does anyone else sell your product? Where else can we find it?
In Red Deer you can find us at Big Bend Market and I think Pure Earth Organics may have some of our stuff as well. Ordering online is a great way to go too.

How many markets do you attend?
We are at this one, the Saturday Public Market and we do Lacombe and Sylvan Lake right now but there is a bit of variety in that.

Which is your favorite market?
This one of course. I like this market the best.

What is your favorite thing about the ATB Downtown Market?
I’ve been coming to this market since the start as a customer. It’s just been exciting to see how it has grown and really taken off. I am a big believer in the Farmer’s Market movement and it’s nice to see what a success it is. It’s nice to be part of a community where that is a value. I love how it brings together the community Downtown. It’s brilliantly organized and designed. I mean the hours of it and the location are perfect. It catches that after work crowd, it’s a professional kind of upscale crowd. It’s sort of a sophisticated audience that like our product and that definitely concentrates at this market which I really appreciate. I also appreciate that it is a really food focused market. The Saturday Public Market is all kinds of things, people aren’t necessarily there buying food for dinner whereas I think that is the majority of what is going on here.

So you like being Downtown then?
Yes, absolutely.

How long have you been with us as a vendor at the ATB Downtown Market?
A couple of months.

You are here a lot. Do you have a favorite business on this street or other vendor in the market?
Dose Coffee Shop, that’s definitely part of my weekly routine. I always get a cappuccino there before I start. I also like this shoe store, Comforts the Sole. 
I think Pursuit Adventures are geniuses. I love Markerville Berry and Vegetable as well. I don’t know, everybody! It’s a nice community to be a part of.

What advice would you give to people just starting out?
As a farmers market vendor? Well I have sold a few different things at a few different markets. It’s always good to have something that is in high demand. You really have to know your market and have something that appeals to people. You have to have something delicious and that people want right away, that is where people spend their money. I think you want to just be smart about the product that you choose. It’s a lot of work so it’s always more reinforcing to have something that is in high demand. Also something that you feel genuinely passionate about. You are going to be saying the same thing over and over and you’ve got to be able to talk about it from a lot of different angles. If you don’t have a genuine interest it’s going to be challenging.

How do you define success?
Happiness! That is sort of the root we are all looking for and I think we maybe get distracted by other things that might be getting us there. If you are chasing money or something you always have to ask, “am I happy doing what I’m doing? Is this the best route to go where I am going?”

To learn more about Untamed Feast be sure to stop by their booth at this week’s ATB Downtown Market or visit them online at: https://untamedfeast.com/

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