I first heard of Pascal Baudar on Evan Kleiman's "Good Food" radio show on KCRW. She was interviewing him about his newest book "The New Wildcrafted Cuisine". He talked about making sodas, beer, salads and spices from ingredients foraged from the wild Southern California terrain. His stories were so fascinating that I knew I needed to photograph him. I reached out, emails were exchanged and about two weeks later, we met at a 7-11 in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains.
Pascal has a build of a man who spends hours and days hiking in the wild foraging for food; lean and rangy. We hopped into his car and drove up the mountain roads towards an area he likes to hike. The road was one I knew well as it is a popular road for road cyclists who enjoy long climbs. I've been on that road many times pedaling in the heat at the edge of exploding, paying attention to the twist and turns of the road as it heads upwards, surrounded by the greens of the forest. Riding that same road with Pascal was a different, eye opening experience. As we'd drive, he'd point out "that's wild nettles" or say something like, "those are mugworts. You can brew wonderful tea with them." What were just fields of green leaves and shrubs to me were collections of many varieties of plants that could be eaten. In fact, he pointed out that 80% of what we saw in front of us could be used as ingredients for cooking!
Soon, we parked and hiked into the woods to reach a suitable area for the portraits. As we walked, Pascal would have a running narrative, pointing out the various wild plants that could be foraged for food. He talked about his recent experience teaching foraging in the Northeast, having to research the native vegetation there and figure out what was edible. He told me about his experience collaborating with star chefs of LA incorporating wild edibles into their menu. He pointed out the buzzing in the air was from the bees who traveled certain paths to and from their hives. "It's like highways", he explained. Throughout the shoot, he was like this, regaling me with stories from his experience foraging in the woods, giving short lessons on making food from foraged ingredients, all the while paying attention to the world around him, attuned to signs and noises and their meanings that I wasn't even aware of. As I photographed him he'd often look up, his attention on some distant sound.
If you have any interest in cooking off the beaten path, check out Pascal Baudar's book. Better yet, if you live in the Southern California area, consider taking a class with him!