The chosen one of the chefs. He left the world of fashion to cultivate gourmet exotic mushrooms

As for many, the pandemic marked a turning point in the life of Nicolás Drucaroff: he entered as a fashion photographer and came out as an expert in the cultivation of gourmet exotic mushrooms. Such is the case that its colorful and delicious fungi shine in the kitchens of chefs of the stature of Germán Martitegui and Narda Lepes, but also in the homes of all those who buy their home self-cultivation kits, and who see how in their own living room magic from the mushroom kingdom sprouts exotic gold, pink or gray shapes.

But the road to success was not direct. “I was a fashion photographer, but with the pandemic the market seemed not to reactivate,” he recalls. I reconverted my photo studio thinking of cultivating in the Reprocann framework [programa de cultivo de cannabis medicinal del Ministerio de Salud] and I began to study how to make the best possible product, and I found that a fungus called trichoderma makes symbiosis with the roots and provides multiple benefits. But at the same time I learned that the trichoderma is “the shark of the Funfi Kingdom”: the enemy of the growers of exotic edible mushrooms…”

Nicholas Drukaroff, in his laboratoryIgnatius Sanchez

The discovery opened the door to the world of gourmet mushrooms, and goodbye to Reprocann. “I was fascinated with this newly discovered kingdom. I started with the internships and I was surprised to see that they came easily to me in my own home –says Nicolás, now known as Funginista (@funginista)–. My photography studio became an incubator and the kitchen became a laboratory. I was ecstatic! I needed someone else to experience this madness, so I gave my friends my first rudimentary self-cultivation blocks, and they worked!”

Their current Nikinoto Funginista self-cultivation kits – which are sold at @floraalmacen – are blocks of poplar and alfalfa weighing just over a kilo and a half, from which it is possible to produce between 800 and 1,500 grams of mushrooms of different species. edible, in two or more consecutive harvests.

Pleurotus ostreatus, known as oyster mushroom or oyster mushroom.
Pleurotus ostreatus, known as oyster mushroom or oyster mushroom.Ignatius Sanchez

The cultivation procedure is more than simple and mimics the life of fungi in the environmental conditions that favor their development. Thus, the first steps are to flood the bag containing the block and then place it in the refrigerator, to simulate rain and subsequent frost. Outside the refrigerator, after patting the block that mimics the effect of falling trees in the forest (which provide food for development), the bag is opened so that in contact with oxygen the fungi begin to slowly emerge from the substrate .

From then on, for the next 5 to 7 days, just periodically spray the block with water (keeping it aerated and out of direct sun) to watch the mushrooms grow until harvest time. This is determined by the so-called “dance of the spores”, in which millions of tiny dots slowly break off and can be seen by shining a flashlight on the bottom of the hats. Thereafter, there are 3 days to harvest before they spoil.

Another variety of edible mushrooms available in Nikinoto Funginista self-grow kits
Another variety of edible mushrooms available in Nikinoto Funginista self-grow kitsIgnatius Sanchez

The growth of Nikinoto Funginista was exponential: “The mushrooms began to grow, my friends uploaded the photos to Instagram and the orders began to arrive,” he says. And more and more orders… the mushrooms began to occupy more and more spaces and we no longer all entered the house. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but I did know that I was passionate and that I was running out of space. I played it and rented a townhouse to be able to work and set up my own laboratory so as not to bother anyone”.

Shortly after, one of his friends opened a vegan restaurant, and his mushrooms also arrived there: “In vegan restaurants, mushrooms are king,” he says. We took control and invented a throne for them where they could grow in full view of the diners, and thus, without realizing it, we made the first Argentine mushroom fruiting plant located in the heart of Villa Crespo, where the Chui is today.”

Since its opening, the Chui restaurant has become an obligatory stop for the veggie world (and foodie in general), making the Funginista mushrooms an object of admiration: “From then on, the project solidified, transforming into a snowball . Today I grow exotic gourmet mushrooms for the high priests of gastronomy, but I never abandoned my first private clients, who gave me the strength and courage to be able to expand the limits of the Kingdom”.

Another mushroom fruiting machine is located in the Marti room, Germán Martitegui’s new restaurant:

What value do chefs find in these exotic mushrooms? For Narda Lepes, who cooks with Funginista products, “fresh mushrooms provide a wide range of possibilities: raw they are soft and provide a different texture; when cooked they lose water and the umami and its flavor are intensified. The meaty ones, in addition, are a good ally when one wants to reduce the consumption of meat”.