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UNTAMED FEAST – The business of wild mushrooms: GET YOUR WILD ON

December, 2015

Michelle & Eric Whitehead
Michelle & Eric Whitehead

Untamed Feast at a Glance

Who they are: Michelle & Eric Whitehead

Where they are: St. Albert, AB

What they do: Harvest, dry and sell gourmet wild food (primarily mushrooms) handpicked in forests throughout Canada

Their mission: Manufacture gourmet wild food that customers can enjoy in their own kitchens

Find their recipe kits at: -D’Arcys Meat Market, Sandy-View Farms, St. Albert Farmers’ Market, Untamed Feast’s website, Save on Foods, Whole Foods Marketplace, Sunterra Market

Interesting facts: They keep all their product in Canada. They appeared on Season 8 of Dragons’ Den and clinched a deal.

Ask Michelle and Eric Whitehead how their lives have changed since successfully clinching a deal on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, and they’ll tell you they’re a lot busier than they used to be. Ask them what hasn’t changed, and they’ll tell you about their passion for making wild food an accessible product and of their commitment to keeping that product in Canada. What’s helping them do that? Well, for starters, moving to St. Albert from Vancouver.

“We came out to do the Make It show at the Enjoy Centre in April two years ago, and just driving through St. Albert we were immediately drawn to it. At first, the desire to move was mostly personal, our daughter has 12 cousins in the IMG_20141002_154907 IMG_20141002_173257Edmonton area, but then when we looked at it from the business side—the boreal forest is just two hours north from here—it made a lot of sense. It’s also very favourable to do business in St. Albert. As soon as we arrived, we realized there’s a demographic here, people with Polish and Ukrainian and French backgrounds, that’s familiar with wild mushrooms (smorizhi). And they require a lot less educating. Everyone talks about the Vancouver food culture, but here everyone recognizes our product. That’s been a big help.”

And they’ll take all the help they can get. Chasing wild mushrooms is not easy work, especially when the competition exports 95 percent of its harvest to Europe.

“Planning the spring morel harvest is extremely competitive. It’s remote, involves a large crew and we need to make sure they’re getting a competitive price with other people out there. That’s a toughie. Our competitors export 95 percent of their harvest. We keep all our product in Canada, but we also have to pay the going rate for that stuff, and the euro is worth a heck-of-a-lot more than the Canadian dollar.”

That gap in the market is also a big reason Untamed Feast became a full-blown company—the opportunity to give Canadians access to a uniquely Canadian product. According to Eric and Michelle, that’s something the market is ready to embrace.

“We can tell you exactly where every one of these mushrooms comes from. You can’t say that about chicken fingers. People are starting to demand to know where their food comes from. And that’s great.” t8n

For more information, check out their website at

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