In the context of the Telluride Shroomfest, the world wide web takes on a whole other meaning: we are talking about mycelium, the sentient cobweb-like web of cells, which, in just one magical phase of its life cycle, fruits mushrooms. Shroom evangelists and guests of the 2012 Shroomfest from keynote speaker Gary Lincoff to Kat Harrison, Tradd Cotter, Katrina Blair, Larry Evans, Devon Enke, Chris Ricci, Danny Newman head the list of true believers who contend that fabulous fungi have the potential to save the world

And edible fungi taste good too.

But what if you can’t tell the difference between edible and a really bad stomach ache? Or Worse. “Go ask Alice?” Not so much. But there are several safe (and tasty) bets at Shroomfest this year.

Thursday, August 16, author and world-renowned foray leader, the aforementioned Gary Lincoff, takes guests on a morning hunt in the mountains near Telluride. Following the foray, everyone proceeds to the Opus Hut where world-class chef, restauranteur (in Sedona) and author Lisa Dahl prepares a banquet.  (The event takes place from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and costs $285. Contact for more information.)

For the first time ever, the Telluride Mushroom Festival is proud to offer a signature immune-boosting Red Ale. The brew produced in a joint effort by Telluride’s Smuggler Joe’s Brewery and Tradd and Olga Cotter of Mushroom Mountain (Liberty, South Carolina). The “Mycobrew” is made from a combination of Turkey Tail, Reishi, and Birch Polypore, fungi with widely known health benefits. (See related post about Tradd Cotter for details.)

And on Friday, August 17, starting at noon, the five-star Wilkinson Public Library hosts the popular and FREE Chef Cook-Off, at which local and guest chefs compete for the honor of Mushroom King or Queen by preparing creative and delicious wild mushroom dishes for the public to taste. Last year’s event attracted more than 150 hungry people. To ensure that everyone who attends this year gets a bite – there are 200 tickets available – the Library is setting up two stations, one in the Program Room and another on the terrace.

The list of participating chefs is as follows:

Lewis Williams: This is the second year Lewis is participating in the Mushroom Cook-Off. Last year he won the contest with a Candy Cap mushroom from the Pacific Northwest he used to make ice cream. His day job is ice cream chef at La Cocina de Luz.

Marla Meridith: Marla is a food writer, photographer, and auteur of the website of, who brings her family to town every summer. While this will be her first appearance at the library, she is hot to trot:  “I am type A with a natural wake-up time of 4 a.m. Breakfast has me hop, skip and jump out of bed each morning.”

Ben Steenblick: Ben is the 2010 Mushroom Cook-Off champion. In 2011, he tried to defend his crown with an oyster mushroom slider and a homemade green sauce. Despite his best efforts, he was dethroned by his roommate Lewis. Ben currently works at Delila’s, event sponsor.

Olga Cotter:  Olga is the wife of mycologist and 2012 Shroomfest presenter Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain. (And creator with her husband of the aforementioned Mycobrew.)  Using mushrooms from their farm, the couple have created high protein dishes that appeal to all palates. A dynamic duo, Olga was volunteered by her husband to be a participant. While Olga is known to cook fantastic mushroom dishes for family and friends, cooking for over 100 participants will be a new experience.

Two Mystery Chefs:  Two additional chefs have been asked to participate, but so far, their names are not confirmed.

The judges include two chefs, Honga Im of Honga’s (“While I’m approaching this contest with an open mind, I will be looking for creativity and overall taste.”) and Lisa Dahl ( “When Art Goodtimes approached me about being involved in the ShroomFest, I jumped at the opportunity.  When I was asked to be a judge at the Cook-Off, I was thrilled.”)

(Dahl is also featured at the Telluride Festival of the Arts‘ signature event, the Grand Tasting, Saturday, August 18, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Mountain Village.)

The rules of the Library’s Cook-off are simple. Chefs get one hour to prepare mushrooms of their choice: chanterelles, oysters or boletes. At the end of the 60 minutes, attendees get to sample the goods and then vote for their favorite. The winner of each station then presents his dish to the panel of judges, who decide the ultimate winner based on flavor, presentation and creativity. The winner gets to lead the infamous Shroomfest Parade, Saturday, August 18, starting at 5:30 p.m.

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