News & Events

Soberanes Fire: Big Sur Health Center Helps Bring Relief

While the community tries to get back to normal, Big Sur Health Center remains actively involved in the Soberanes Fire activities. Our hearts go out to those in Garrapata and Palo Colorado Canyon who lost residences and/or jobs or experienced other damages and losses.

Since the beginning of August, Health Center staff have been on-site at the Fire Camp every morning, providing evaluation and treatment of sick or injured firefighters. It is difficult enough to brave the rugged terrain and heat without the added insult of poison oak. We are proud to be able to provide some relief to the troops and to assist with the illnesses and injuries that occur as the fire drags on and fatigue sets in.

At the same time, in order to help community members, we continue to offer complimentary medical services, including free medications and supplies for those affected by the fire.

We would like to thank Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for donating some much needed medications and supplies and Central Avenue Pharmacy for keeping up with our supply orders for fire camp.

We are also extremely appreciative of the Big Sur International Marathon for their generous donation to help support our fire relief efforts and to all the other individuals who have made contributions. We are proud to be a part of this community that always pulls together in an emergency.

Finally, we would like to extend a huge thank you to all the hard-working fire crews for helping to make Big Sur safe once again.

Click here for Soberanes Fire Relief Resource List.

Big Sur Health Center Announces Its Annual Health Fair, Tuesday, October 11th, Noon - 5:00 p.m.

As the only medical facility between the Monterey Peninsula and Cambria, the Big Sur Health Center is critical to the wellness of its community. The Big Sur Health Center wants you to save the date for its 2016 Health Fair - Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, noon - 5:00 pm.

Open to the public, this health fair offers the following complimentary activities:

  • Health screening
  • Dental checkups
  • Flu shots
  • Blood pressure
  • Dr. Richard Kehoe, Chiropractor
  • Blood sugar and cholesterol screens (provided by CHOMP)
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Legal aid for seniors

The 2016 health fair will take place at the Big Sur Health Center located at 46896 Highway 1, Big Sur. For more information call (831) 667-2580.

Background on The Big Sur Health Center:

As a nonprofit health-care facility since 1979, the Big Sur Health Center provides quality acute and preventive health care services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate, and cost-effective. It is the Health Center's quest to be a lifelong healthcare partner and provide care when needed.

The Big Sur Health Center provides:

  • comprehensive, personalized services through conventional and holistic approaches that focus on patient needs;
  • both preventive and urgent care, minor surgical procedures and basic laboratory and pharmaceutical services;
  • assistance during emergencies, such as fires, storms and road closures that isolate Big Sur
  • a bilingual staff that is committed to building strong, personal patient/provider relationships that empower individuals to reach their highest levels of well-being;
  • a team that understands and embraces the diverse cultures and age groups that contribute to the richness of the Big Sur community;

The BSHC believes that health care should be available to everyone … and that is why they accept most major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medical, and participate in a variety of subsidized and sliding-scale programs.

Big Sur Health Center ... Your Healthcare Partner for Life!

10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.


46896 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920


2017 Big Sur Foragers Festival Dates Announced Festival Announces Partners and Details
Tickets On Sale

Big Sur Health Center announced January 13 – 15, 2017, as the dates of its annual Big Sur Foragers Festival. This year’s partners include Carmel Valley Ranch, the sister property of longtime host Ventana Big Sur. Due to renovations at Ventana Big Sur, the Fungus Face-Off and the Grand Chef dinner will take place at Carmel Valley Ranch this year.

The event has traditionally served as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. The community’s non-profit health center will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to help support the continued presence of local healthcare services in the Big Sur area.

New events for 2017 include:

  • A new Friday night winemaker dinner series held at select restaurants throughout Monterey County. Some partners include La Balena, Alvardo Street Brewery and more! Details to come
  • Post Ranch Inn will host a Friday night fundraiser for the second year! Details to come.
  • Join us for a special evening in the legendary wine room at Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Chef Chad Minton and the culinary team will create a three course meal paired with wines from Bonny Doon Vineyard. The evening will begin with a reception of passed appetizers, wines from Bonny Doon and live music from Dino Vera from 6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. enjoy a three course dinner in the legendary wine room. Meet the culinary team and Bonny Doon Vineyard! There are only 24 seats available. Tickets are $175 per person

Back by Popular Demand:

  • This year’s partners include Carmel Valley Ranch, the summer-camp-inspired sister resort of longtime host Ventana Big Sur that sprawls across 500 acres in the nearby Carmel Valley. Due to renovations at Ventana Big Sur, this year’s Fungus Face-Off and the Grand Chef dinner will take place at this playful destination resort that celebrates a deep connection to the land with passionate culinary, wine and farming artisans, and guest learning experiences ranging from organic gardening and foraging to wine making and lavender and beekeeping workshops. The “Fungus Face-Off” will take place in a beautiful tented setting on the Pete Dye-designed golf course at Carmel Valley Ranch. This popular event sells out early. There are 250 tickets available. Tickets are $65 per person.
  • Grand Chef Dinner at Carmel Valley Ranch — details to be announced soon.
  • Foraging walk led by local experts at Ventana Big Sur. “Wild Mushroom Walks and Talk” at Pfeiffer State Park led by expert mushroom foragers. This year hikes will be held on Sunday. There are 30 spaces available per walk. Tickets are $60 per person.

For event details visit Tickets can be purchased at

MC Gives Update

The Big Sur Health Center again partnered with The Monterey County Weekly, through MC Gives, in order to maximize donations in their matching grant programs. Thanks to our generous donors, we raised $78,664 with the matching funds. Thank you also to those who made donations of $55,767 directly to the Health Center. We appreciate each and every one of you!

2016 Big Sur Foragers Festival Announces Grand Chef Dinner

Suzette Gresham, Acquerello's co-owner and Executive Chef

BIG SUR, Calif., (December, 2015) The Big Sur Foragers Festival announces its Grand Chef Dinner at Ventana Big Sur The "Foragers Dinner" at the Restaurant at Ventana will be held Saturday, January 16th, 2016 beginning at 6:00 pm. The multi-course dinner, destined to be a memorable feast paired with an incredible wine selection, costs $175.00 per person.

Guest Chefs have been announced! Suzette Gresham, Acquerello's co-owner and Executive Chef along with Paul Corsentino from Ventana Big Sur.

Suzette Gresham, Acquerello's co-owner and Executive Chef

Suzette Gresham, Acquerello's co-owner and Executive Chef, has had a profound impact on the culinary world over the course of her over 35 years in the kitchen. Her career is one that has been punctuated by numerous awards and accolades from both local and international institutions. In 1980, she was the first female apprentice to be on the U.S. Culinary Olympic team, returning as an individual competitor 4 years later, and taking home the bronze metal. She holds the coveted Antonin Careme award, and was honored to become the first Junior Member of the ACF, later being voted to the Board of Directors for three terms. Acquerello has held a spot every year on Michael Bauer's Top 100 Bay Area Restaurant List since it's inception 19 years ago. The restaurant has received a Michelin star every year since 2007 until 2014 when it was awarded a second star. Gresham is only the third woman in the U.S. to hold that title. While these prestigious achievements are a source of pride for Gresham, they are not the driving force behind her career, food -above all else is what keeps her in the kitchen. Gresham produces more than just meals at Acquerello, she and her team provide experiences for the diner that are emblematic of what they could expect in high-end dining in Italy. She does this through her dedication to elevated hospitality, the execution of soulful and thoughtful dishes, and a mission to educate and inspire all those who come through the door. "Materia prima", or quality ingredients, along with seasonality, tradition, and philosophy are the driving forces behind Gresham's style. She believes that Italian cuisine has a timelessness that doesn't rely on trends. She remains current, however, by listening to diners, maintaining an awareness of her marketplace, and revitalizing forgotten classics through interpretive applications. Just as ingredients have been a pillar in her cooking, education has been a hallmark in her legacy. Gresham strives to make Acquerello all about opportunity. Her tenacious attitude, sincerity, undeniable skill, and constant appetite for knowledge are what helped her rise through the ranks. She didn't realize she was a pioneer at the time; she just wanted to learn and progress in her career. Gresham has made her mark in the industry by highlighting the importance of culinary fundamentals in her team, stressing the importance of where you begin as a chef. It is with this philosophy in mind that Gresham has successfully passed 63 interns through her kitchen in the 26 years of Acquerello's existence. It is her belief that without a strong foundation, in the long run you will short change yourself because of what you don't know. It becomes exponentially harder to create new, bold flavor profiles or interpret the classics if you don't first understand why techniques came to be, how traditions were started, and what role ingredients play in the regions from which they hail. "If you love your craft, it is your duty to learn all you can and then share that knowledge with the next generation. I relate to other chefs young and old - at the end of the day we are all just cooks."

Paul Corsentino, Executive Chef, The Restaurant at Ventana Inn

A native of Illinois and a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Corsentino's first foray into the kitchen led him to mk The Restaurant in Chicago in 2002. In 2004, Corsentino moved to New York where he worked at acclaimed restaurants such as Bouley, Country, Alta and Rouge Tomate prior to his career defining position as the Executive Chef at the National Bar & Dining Room. Corsentino met Zakarian when he became Sous Chef at Country in 2005, where he was a member of the opening team. In 2010, Corsentino reunited with Zakarian as the Executive Chef at The National Bar & Dining Room. During the 3 years at the National, Corsentino landed runner up for's "Sexiest New York Chef." He then assisted Zakarian in winning the 4th Season of Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs" in December 2011.

The move to California in 2014 was inspired by the dream to cook in the seasons, the quest for fresh local ingredients and, of course, sunny winters. Corsentino joined Commune Hotels and Resorts as the Executive Chef at Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur. The food is representative of the location featuring ingredients such as local foraged mushrooms and wild caught fresh yellowfin tuna. In his first year at Ventana, Corsentino has put the restaurant on the map as a food destination in its own right.

Purchase Your Tickets Today For The Big Sur Foragers Festival 2016

Save the dates of January 15th through 17th, 2016. Big Sur area restaurants will host the culinary expertise of notable chefs preparing unique fare from rustic to elegant, paired with the region's amazing selection of wines and beers.

The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. The community's non-profit health center will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to support the continued presence of local health care services.

In addition to the Grand Chef Dinner, the event schedule includes:

New events for 2016 include:
Friday, January 15th:

  • 5:30 Friday evening - Cocktail reception and fungus presentation by Louie Schwartzberg followed by 5 course tasting menu prepared by Chef John Cox with wine pairings selected by Sierra Mar wine director Dominique DaCruz. $500 per person. Limited to 22 tickets. Reservations to be made thru Post Ranch Reservations at 800 527 2200.

Sunday, January 17th:

  • 11 a.m. Sunday morning - Property forage hike and lunch with Chef John Cox. Guest will enjoy an exclusive property wide tour of Post Ranch Led by Executive Chef John Cox followed by a 3 course lunch with wine pairing featuring items foraged on property and local wines. Limited to 16 people at $200 per person. Reservations made at 800 527 2200.This hike is weather permitting.

Back by Popular Demand:

Saturday, January 16th:

  • Saturday, January 16th: This year there will be two "Wild Foraging Walk and Talk" - one at Pfeiffer State Park (level beginner) and one through the Big Sur Wilderness (level intermediate). Cost per hike $35.00. (Saturday, January 16th 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
  • Saturday, January 16th "Fungus Face-Off" on the deck at Ventana Big Sur. "Fungus Face-Off" on the deck at Ventana Big Sur! "Fungus Face-Off" at Ventana Big Sur from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Cost per person is $60. A friendly competition among some of the area's notable chefs featuring chanterelles and other fabulous fungi. Attendees also have an opportunity to cast their vote for "People's Choice". (Saturday, January 16th 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
  • A silent auction full of culinary delights, hotel stays, tickets to explore the area, art and so much more will take place during the food and wine sampling. There will be more than 60 items this year! Purchase raffle tickets for $5 per ticket of $25 for 6 tickets. Enter to win your choice of 7 culinary delights or hotel packages! Raffle package values begin at $200 to $700! Tickets available for purchase at the event.

Tickets on sale now For event details and venue information, visit or follow on Facebook at

Big Sur Health Center to Benefit from Big Sur River Run One Million Goal for 2015

Over the last 34 years the Big Sur River Run has raised $915,000 for the Big Sur Health Center and Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade. This year the race committee has set a goal of reaching the $1,000,000 mark! Nepenthe, the event’s main sponsor for the past 25 years, has organized a challenge grant of $25,000 in hopes to rally the local community, businesses and participants to support the event and reach the one million dollar goal. If you can help by sponsoring the event please contact us at:

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED! The entire event is run by volunteers - many of whom have been returning year after year. It is time for some fresh energy to come in and keep this event running smoothly. If you are interested in participating either beforehand or on Race Day please contact us: Or, call/text Chelsea at 831-238-0214

All volunteers are asked to arrive at or before 7:45 am and will be finished at the end of the race (usually 12pm). Here are the positions and number of volunteers we are looking for:

Start/Finish - 6 people
Popsicles! - 5 people
Race Course (directing runners, passing out water) - 25 people
Pre-registration Table - 8 people
Sweats - 2 people
Day of Race Registration- 6 people
Clean-up - 2 people
Announcements - 4 people

Thank you in advance for being active in our community!

Spread the word! Help us spread the word! Like us and share the BSRR Facebook page - the more people we can reach the better. Invite your friends, colleagues and kids to run or walk along the Big Sur River. Suggest the event to our visitors!

Register Today! Registration is available now online at: or in person on the day of the event. We ask that runners requiring day-of registration to please arrive early to register. Limited to 1,000 participants. Registration fee includes long sleeve t-shirt with an annual design.

The BSRR is an all-volunteer operation that has raised $915,000 for the two beneficiaries thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, race participants and volunteers. This year is no exception - thank you to our sponsors.
Chelsea Belle Davey

Big Sur Health Center Welcomes Dr. Brita Bruemmer

Dr. Brita BruemmerWe are very pleased to welcome Dr. Brita Bruemmer into our Big Sur Health Center family.

Dr. Biller and Sharen became acquainted with Dr. Bruemmer when they all worked for Monterey Medical Group in the late 1990s. Her reputation as a family practice physician is well known and respected on the Monterey Peninsula and she has excellent working relationships with many of the same specialists used by Big Sur Health Center.

Dr. Bruemmer graduated from UC San Diego School of Medicine in 1987 and completed her family medicine residency in Merced, part of the UC Davis network of residencies. She is board certified in family medicine and has been in practice for 25 years, the most recent 17 in Pacific Grove.

She lives in Monterey with her husband and two daughters; and enjoys participating in local triathlons, running races, and knitting.

Generate Matching Dollars for Big Sur Health Center Through Monterey County Gives

MC GivesThe Health Center could not exist without the continuing support of our generous donors. We rely on donations and grants to provide 65% of the cost of bringing you the local high quality health care service you have come to expect.

This year, in order to maximize the donations we receive, we are participating in Monterey County Gives (MC Gives) a program sponsored by the Monterey County Weekly through the Community Foundation for Monterey County. MC Gives selected Big Sur Health Center as one of the charities to receive matching funds from the Weekly's Community Fund at the Foundation.

We hope you will choose to make a donation through MC Gives. All donations made through MC Gives after November 13, 2014 will be matched by the Foundation at the close of the campaign on December 31, 2014. Last year, participating charities received an additional 14% through MC Gives.

You can make your donation through MC Gives in one of two ways:

If you choose to use your credit card, go to, select Big Sur Health Center from the list of participating charities, and follow the simple instructions;


Mail your check made out to Community Foundation for Monterey County to the Big Sur Health Center at 46896 Highway One, Big Sur, CA 93920.

Community Foundation for Monterey County, a 501 (c)(3) organization, will send you a receipt for your taxes.

For more information on Monterey County Gives, please see the November 13th Special Edition of the Monterey County Weekly (

Remember, no gift is too small. Your gift is important to us and, unless you wish to remain anonymous, will be acknowledged in our annual report. Many thanks for your generosity.

2015 Big Sur Foragers Festival
A Culinary Exploration into the World of Wild Foods

A celebration of an amazing array of wild foods was the centerpiece for the January 16 - 18th weekend of gourmet food, world-class wine and beer, entertainment, expert-led foraging hikes and the friendly chef competition with celebrity judges.

The event also served as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. We will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to support the continued presence of local health care services. This year's Big Sur Foragers Festival raised more than $30,000!

On Saturday, January 17, the "Fungus Face-Off" was held on the deck at Ventana Inn & Spa! There was a friendly competition among some of the area's notable chefs featuring chanterelles and other fabulous fungi. Celebrity judges included Jim Dodge, Mike Hale with the Monterey Herald, Russ Parsons with the Los Angeles Times and Wendy Brodie. Attendees had an opportunity to taste along with the judges and to cast their vote for "People's Choice".

Participating restaurants were: The Restaurant at Ventana Inn Executive Chef Paul Corsentino; Chef Sean Garrett, Fernwood; Chef Johnny DeVivo, Porters in the Forest at Poppy Hills; Chef Phillip Burrus, Esalen; Chef Tim Wood, Carmel Valley Ranch; Chef Evan Lite, The Beach House at Lover's Point; Chef Brendan Esons, Big Sur Roadhouse; Chef Tony Baker, Montrio Bistro / Baker's Bacon; and Chef Steve Johnson and Mike Behan, TusCA Ristorante at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

Montrio and Bakers Bacon Winner of Judges Pick for Best Overall

  • Black trumpet mushroom tart, dock candy cap jelly, Foie Gras parfait, Bakers Bacon and pine needle syrup.

Carmel Valley Ranch Winner of Best Dish Using Wine and the People's Choice Award Winner

  • Chanterelle, black trumpet, hedgehog mushrooms with short ribs on a garlic crostini with sea salt and red radishes.

The Beach House at Lovers Point Winner of Dish Most Easily Adapted to Home Cooking

  • Mushroom and pork Suigow with shitake, oyster, porcini and portabella mushrooms with a truffle soy butter.

Big Sur Roadhouse Winner of Most Nutritious and Healthy

  • Drinks with a variety of marinated wild mushrooms. Drinks include Wood Sorrel Ale; Huckleberry Fizz with Big Sur Spring Water and Pine Needle Bay Laurel and Spearmint Tea with Big Sur Honey.

The Restaurant at Ventana Winner of Best Use of Local Ingredients

  • Candy Cap mushroom ravioli fried with chanterelle mushrooms, black truffle puree in a chanterelle mushroom broth with pickled chanterelles

Porters in the Forest Winner of Most Inventive Use of Ingredients

  • Mushrooms 5 ways: Pine nut aioli, fried lentil, burnt meringue. Mushrooms were pickled, roasted and sautéed and finished with chili sea salt.

Fernwood Winner of Best Cooking Technique

  • Pork and chanterelle meatloaf with chanterelle butter gravy and a lemon microgreen salad. The meatloaf was made with 4 kinds of pork and Fernwood house made bacon.

Esalen Best Winner of Vegetarian Dish

  • Wild fennel salad with Esalen garden herbs, puree of Coke Farm celery root and pickled chanterelles.

Big Sur Bakery Winner of Best Table Display

  • Mushroom puppies with pate and Choux puffs with black trumpets, wild rice and hints of Umeboshi.

TusCA Ristorante Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa Winner of Dish with Most Complex Flavors

  • Sea scallop with coconut carrot broth, roasted shitake mushrooms, fresh Enoki mushrooms, lime caviar as well as a Thai basil leaf.

In addition, there was a tasting, wine parings and beer tasting donated by:


  • The Quail and Olive

Winery Partners/Brewery:

  • Chappellet
  • Alvarado Street Brewery
  • Mad Otter Ales
  • Tudor Wines
  • Holman Ranch
  • Morgan Winery
  • Mesa Del Sol Winery
  • Comanche Cellars
  • Ventana Wines
  • McIntyre Vineyards
  • Bernardus Lodge
  • Dawn's Dream
  • Joullian Vineyards
  • Chesebro Wines
  • Fillipponi Ranch
  • Galante Vineyards
  • Scheid Vineyards

For more information go to

The Big Sur Health Center Plays Key Role During the Pfeiffer Fire

The Pfeiffer Fire caught residents unaware in the middle of the night, but the immediate and spirited help and support they received surprised no one within this close-knit community.

The Big Sur Health Center would like to thank its staff and dedicated volunteers who played an important role in supporting the efforts of firefighters.

Our team provided medical care and vital services for the entire Big Sur community. When the firefighters could not come to the health center, the BSHC staff went to them on the frontline of the fires. Throughout the ordeal, we treated many Big Sur residents and firefighters for eye injury, and smoke-inhalation issues.

In addition, the Big Sur Health Center maintained the hotline for the community. This line helped ensure that the community received accurate information each day from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

We are grateful to those (too many to name individually) who donated food, clothing and toiletries to our free store at the health center where those affected by the fire could come and gather items they needed.

We continue to maintain a wish list of items needed by victims of the fire, as well as a list of those offering goods and pro bono services. If you would like to volunteer in any way, please contact us at 831-667-2580. We will continue to work with CPOA to assure that those in need receive as much help as possible.

Finally, we have a number of free mental health service resources available for those in need of emotional support. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us!

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Big Sur Health Center is here to support the community, and will continue to support those affected by the fire.

We are here for the expected, the unexpected and everything in between. We are committed to the care of you and your family, whether you're seeking medical attention at our facility or during an emergency situation.

While December is the peak time for the Big Sur Health Center's annual fundraising campaign, we in no way want to dilute any donations to the fire victims. However, if you would like to make donation to help continue our efforts may be made through the Monterey Peninsula Foundation's Birdies for Charity program that generates a 20% match.

Go to and select Big Sur Health Center from the list of participating charities, or Mail your check, made out to Monterey Peninsula Foundation, to the Big Sur Health Center. Monterey Peninsula Foundation, a 501(c)(3), will send you a receipt for your taxes, after which all of your personal information will be removed.

Big Sur Health Center Stewardship Fund
Founded by Big Sur Resident Patricia Lee Pavey

Big Sur Health Center Stewardship FundAs the only medical facility between the Monterey Peninsula and Cambria, the Big Sur Health Center is critical to the wellness of its community.

To help ensure its long-term commitment to providing high-quality healthcare services to all residents, the center has announced the launch of the Big Sur Health Center Stewardship Fund. Founded by Big Sur resident Patricia Lee Pavey, the fund focuses on bridging the financial gap in times of need.

Read More and Donate to the Fund...

Big Sur Health Center Receives $80,000 Grant

The Big Sur Health Center has received an $80,000 grant over a 3 year period of time. Funds for the grant were donated through a collaboration of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The grant's goal is to increase sustainability of small, community-based nonprofit organizations throughout California's Central Coast region administered by the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

The Big Sur Health Center was selected as one of 6 organizations in the County to receive funds to be used specifically for exploring and developing means for assuring sustainability of the organization who received to the grant to continue to provide services, particularly to low-income families on the Monterey Peninsula. The Community Foundation for Monterey County that was instrumental in recommending BSHC for this award.

The Central Coast CLP is funded by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as part of their larger Community Leadership Project initiative to strengthen small nonprofit organizations serving low-income people and communities of color in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast.

As a non-profit health care facility since 1979, the Big Sur Health Center provides quality healthcare through traditional and complementary approaches that are culturally sensitive and center on patient needs. It is the Health Center's quest to be a life-long healthcare partner for all in Big Sur, regardless of need or ability to pay. The Health Center must raise more than $300,000 (in addition to fees received for services) every year to continue to support the Big Sur Community and surrounding residents.

2014 Big Sur Foragers Festival Announces Fungus Face Off Winners

A celebration of an amazing array of wild foods was the centerpiece for the January 17 - 19th weekend of gourmet food, world-class wine and beer, entertainment, expert-led foraging hikes and the friendly chef competition with celebrity judges.

The event also served as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. The community's non-profit health center will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to support the continued presence of local health care services. This year's Big Sur Foragers Festival raised more than $20,000!

On Saturday, January 18, the "Fungus Face-Off" was held on the deck at Ventana Inn & Spa! There was a friendly competition among some of the area's notable chefs featuring chanterelles and other fabulous fungi. Celebrity judges included Jim Dodge, Frances Wilson and Wendy Brodie. Attendees had an opportunity to taste along with the judges and to cast their vote for "People's Choice".

Participating restaurants were: Bernardus Lodge, Big Sur Bakery, Big Sur Roadhouse, Carmel Valley Ranch, Esalen, Fernwood Resort, Hyatt Carmel Highlands , Ripplewood Resort, the Taphouse and The Restaurant at Ventana.

The winners of the 2014 Fungus Face Off were:

  • Most Inventive Use of Ingredients - Ventana
    • The culinary team at Ventana Inn and Spa created a Fungi Croquette: Yellow Chantrelle Mushroom and Black Truffle Gel "Explosion" with a Dried Black Trumpet, Crimini and Panko Crust fried to perfection!
  • Most Unique Dish - Big Sur Bakery and Most Nutritious/Healthy - Big Sur Bakery
    • Jacob Pilarski of Big Sur Bakery had the prettiest display, with roasted carrots dusted with seeds, shallots and nutritional yeast and served with a dollop of wood sorrel cream cheese. The carrots were arranged artfully on a slab of wood, which foragers were invited eat off of in lieu of a disposable plate.
  • Most Complex Flavors Dish - Ripplewood
    • Chef Carl Shadwell of Ripplewood, along with Jim Betts of Ripplewood Resort came through with a complex marriage of wild boar, truffled mushroom rilletes served with red onion quince marmalade, horseradish creme fraiche and apple on rye toast. Yum.
  • Best Hot/ Spicy Dish - Big Sur Roadhouse
    • Big Sur Roadhouse's Matt Glazer ladled out what he called a "lemon pepper chowder," strategically-named so "the vegetarians don't get offended" and which was, he says, "pork on pork on pork. It's like four layers of pork." Glazer gave the chowder an added umami boost with hedgehog mushrooms, black trumpets and yellow chanterelles, and delivered just the right acidity with juice from South Coast Meyer lemons.
  • Best Table Display - Fernwood
    • Fernwood's culinary team led by Chef Sean Garrett created a dish of couscous, nuts, seeds and house-cured bacon-enlivened by a drizzle of hibiscus syrup. The dish was the most unexpectedly tasty of the day, as the little bowl of nuts and seeds looked like a squirrel's breakfast. But the house-cured bacon, oh that bacon.
  • Most Artistic Presentation of Dish - Esalen
    • Esalen's Philip Burrus dished out the retreat's staple rye bread-made with wild yeast-toasted and topped with herb salad, wild fennel aioli and pickled beets sliced impossibly thin.
  • Most Easily Adapted to Home Cooking - Bernardus
    • Bernardus' Cal Stamenov served up mouthwatering goat cheese polenta topped with sautéed maitake and yellowfoot mushrooms and crazy-good garlic brioche croutons. The polenta had a just a hint of rosemary to the mushrooms' thyme, creating a sum so satisfying a return for seconds felt mandatory. Others, it seems, agreed-Cal's dish won this year's "People's Choice" award. Attendees also felt inspired with the very approachable plate, voting it "Most Adaptable For Home Use."
  • Best Vegetarian Dish - Hyatt Carmel Highlands
    • Chef Matt Bolton made a tantalizing mushroom infused cannelloni that had the crowds wanting more! The dish included Wild mushroom cannelloni, pasta with herbs (chervil, parsley & chive). The filling had black trumpets, chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms spinach and mascarpone
  • Most Local Ingredients - Carmel Valley Ranch
    • Carmel Valley Ranch-absent chef Tim Wood, who was back at the ranch making paella with visiting Spanish chef Jorge Matas-was serving up six different types of fungus-porcini, crimini, oyster, hedgehog, trumpet and chanterelle-atop a crostini with radish and mustard greens, and the result was a supremely satisfying velvety, garlicky fungal fusion.
  • Best Cooking Technique -Taphouse
    • Taphouse's Enrique Esparza, Steve Mayer and team had a succulent two-component dish, with prosciutto-wrapped wild Pacific shrimp grilled just right alongside a crostini topped with a cold mushroom tapenade and a squeeze of lemon.

Special Trophies:

  • People's Choice - Bernardus
  • Judges' Pick for Celebrity Chef of Show - Ventana

In addition, wine parings were donated by the following wineries:

  • Chappellet
  • Chesebro Wines
  • Cholame Winery
  • Comanche Cellars
  • Heller Estates
  • Mesa del Sol
  • Madeline
  • Mercy
  • Dawn's Dream
  • Morgan
  • McIntyre
  • Filliponi
  • Pessagno
  • Scheid
  • Wrath

For more information go to

2013 Big Sur Foragers Festival Recap

2013 "Fungus Face-Off "at Big Sur Foragers Festival Dished Up Mushroom Magic: Chef Tim Wood of Carmel Valley Ranch wins "People's Choice" Award, Local Chefs & Vintners Team Up to Benefit Big Sur Health Center

On Saturday afternoon of the Big Sur Foragers Festival 2013, The "Fungus Face-Off" brought together local chefs and wineries for a friendly competition at beautiful Ventana Inn, the host of the event.

With the brilliant Pacific ocean as a backdrop, and Santa Cruz musician, Asher Stern, adding to the celebratory atmosphere, guests savored mushroom-based creations along with a fine selection of local wines, before casting their ballots for their favorites.

Celebrity judges Jim Dodge, Michael Bauer and Wendy Brodie were tasked with presenting awards in the following categories:

MOST INVENTIVE USE - Mark Marron & Sherry Gladstone of Big Sur Affair Catering: Chanterelle infused vodka martini, paired with Monterey Bay Dungeness crab cake with chanterelle poblano sauté, wild mushroom saffron risotto with pecorino cheese.

MOST UNUSUAL/UNIQUE CREATIVE DISH - Carl Shadwell, Ripplewood: Pate choux puff with chanterelle, Meyer lemon, lavender and honey ice cream

BEST FEATURE DISH (PEOPLES AWARD) & BEST DISH USING WINE - Tim Wood, Carmel Valley Ranch: Matsutake braised beef ragout, roasted garlic, Mazuna, Carmel Valley Ranch salt, shaved black truffles on crostini

BEST TABLE DISPLAY - Enrique Esparza & Steve Mayer, Big Sur Taphouse: French dip with chanterelle au jus with black sage and specialty salts of black sage, Meyer lemon, chanterelle and oyster mushrooms

MOST ARTISTIC PRESENTATION – Tim Tavadara of Nepenthe - and Douglas Bush from The Cultured Abalone Farm: Abalone porcini Fritter with pickleweed and red dulse (seaweed)

Mushroom, banana squash and goat cheese bread pudding with pistachio pesto

MOST NUTRITIOUS/HEALTHY - Matt Farmer, Coast Gallery:
Chanterelle and roasted garlic bisque (made using no cream: thickened with rice)

BEST VEGETARIAN DISH - Philip Wojtowicz, Big Sur Bakery: Gougere filled with chanterelle mousse

According to Sharen Carey, Executive Director for the Big Sur Health Center, the event 's beneficiary, "Every Chef in the Fungus Face-Off came out a winner, and deservedly so! The decadent experience received very high marks from all attendees, and the Foragers dinner, which capped off the day, was superb. We received nothing but great comments on the wonderful dishes prepared by Ventana Chef Truman Jones and San Francisco Americano Restaurant Chef Kory Stewart."

Magnus Toren and Mike Scutari, of the Henry Miller Library, opened the evening with guitar/piano duets, adding a delightful and festive tone to the 5-course dinner, which was accompanied by wines from Cambiata, Chesebro and Tondre Grapefields.

Carey also noted that a young couple from San Diego eloped and got married on the Ventana property the same day. "They chose to spend their wedding dinner with us. They were very sweet and appreciated being publicly acknowledged at the dinner."

Carey additionally expressed her thanks to David Krause, who led the popular Mushroom Walk Saturday morning, and to the three restaurants that held their own mushroom-themed dinners on Friday evening as part of the Foragers Festival. "I also want to acknowledge the chefs and staff at Big Sur Lodge, Big Sur Bakery, and Sierra Mar Restaurant at Post Ranch Inn, for their participation in the weekend's activities and for contributing so much to this important fundraiser."

She also expressed thanks to all participating chefs and wineries in the Fungus Face-Off, as well as to all those vendors and benefactors who donated items to the Silent Auction. "A very special thanks to our Platinum Sponsors, Ventana Inn and their staff, who hosted Saturday's activities, and to A To Z Rentals who provided the wonderful party tents," said Carey.

Wine pairings for the Fungus Face-Off were graciously provided by: Baker and Brain, Calcareous, Comanche Cellars, Chapellet, Chesebro Wines, Mesa del Sol, McIntyre Vineyards, Morgan Winery, Pessagno Wines, Silvestri and Scheid.

Finally, Carey offered accolades to the Event Committee and volunteers who helped make the festival such a success.

Stay tuned for an announcement of the date for next year's Foragers Festival. Please visit our website at


¡Salud! The Big Sur Health Center Newsletter

The bi-lingual Health Center newsletter, ¡Salud!, comes out twice yearly and brings the public up to date with new offerings at the Center and tips for continuing good health.  Pictures and color bring the information to life.  To read past issues of ¡Salud! (all issues are PDFs and require Adobe Acrobat to view), please click on the newsletter name and download a PDF copy: