Lee Gray is big in Canada. “The Wild Gourmet,” as he is known to us in Lincoln City, came to the attention of Chef Lynn Crawford when she was in Newport last summer, filming a segment of her on-location food show, “Pitchin’ In,” for Food Network Canada.

She came here, with her suave yet friendly film crew, to take part in the harvest of Oregon shrimp, aboard the F/V Kylie Lynn. Then, she created and prepared recipes at the Local Ocean restaurant on Newport’s Bayfront. In the process, while admiring the chanterelles, she learned about Gray and his longtime devotion to foraged foods.

Lee Gray is a man who has lived in a sea cave, written a foraging cookbook, catered for the stars in Los Angeles and eaten the fringe-y part of a sea anemone – not necessarily in that order (he regrets that last one, by the way. He still has an ulcer). Sporting his trademark ponytail and black beret, Gray has spent nearly three decades learning how to live off the land in Western Oregon, harvesting everything from purple varnish clams to fiddlehead ferns. He’s especially famous for his ability to find wild mushrooms in the Coast Range.

Chef Crawford, the former executive chef at the Four Seasons Manhattan, couldn’t resist. She found the Wild Gourmet, and asked for a mushroom field trip. The resulting segment, including shots of the acrophobic Crawford following the goat-like Gray up steep, mossy hillsides in a huge rainstorm, aired in February and is available online. You can see the episode here.

You don’t have to be a famous chef to hang out with the “WG.” For a workshop fee of $20, Gray will show you how to harvest clams from Siletz Bay; for an extra $30, he’ll meet you at the Lincoln City Cultural Center for a hands-on cooking class. His annual workshop schedule, which began earlier this month, also features weekend courses in Tide Pool Edibles at the NW 15th St. beach access. In the fall, he’ll be mushrooming on Cascade Head.

For details on The Wild Gourmet and his hands-on classes, head to www.wildgourmet.org, or ring him up: 541-992-3798. To see him in action, sucking the meat out of a barnacle, here.

Happy hunting!

Niki Price is the editor and co-owner of Oregon Coast Today, a weekly newspaper covering arts, entertainment and the environment on the central Oregon coast. She roams the shores from Yachats north to Rockaway, covering everything from pelican proliferation to proffered profiteroles, with two underage editorial assistants often in tow. To follow them, and the TODAY, check out their Twitter feed and Facebook fan site.

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