Ones to Watch 2016: J.T. Gelineau
Title: Owner, Mushrooms Naturally
Why Watch Him: His mycological enterprise is mushrooming.
Mysterious, fascinating, beautiful and delicious. That’s how J.T. Gelineau described the all-consuming object of his obsession: the mushroom. A former chef who grew up digging in dirt and gardening, Gelineau’s fascination with mushrooms comes, well, naturally. Now his business Mushrooms Naturally, which started part time in his small basement, has grown into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse in O’Fallon, Missouri. “My wife is a very tolerant woman, but she told me to move it someplace else,” Gelineau said.
Self-taught in mycology, the biology of mushrooms, Gelineau starts everything from scratch, in petri dishes. Unusual varieties like royal trumpet, hen-of-the-woods, white beech and black poplar line rack after rack of industrial shelving, popping out of bags of mineral-enhanced sawdust “soil” like some sci-fi farm from The Day of the Triffids. “I really like growing vegetables, but this is just so much more challenging,” he said. “It appealed to me from the chef’s point of view of the food and organization.”
As a former chef, he also knows what a high-end kitchen wants, according to one of Gelineau’s clients, Anthony Devoti, chef-owner of Five Bistro. “The stuff that he’s growing is beautiful,” Devoti said. “And with us trying to stay local and hyper-local, he’s growing those here in St. Louis.” They’re also exceptionally fresh, since Gelineau delivers mushrooms picked and sorted within three days of harvest.
Mushrooms Naturally has grown to be one of the largest local suppliers of gourmet mushrooms to St. Louis restaurants in just three years. And if mushrooms weren’t enough, Gelineau recently started making flavored sea salts – from roasted shitake to truffle. Yet another reason to keep your eye on the mushroom man.
– photo by Carmen Troesser
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