Fort Worth's Black Cat Mushrooms crops up at all the right restaurants
A Fort Worth startup is putting mushrooms on the plate at some of the area’s most interesting restaurants. Called Black Cat Culinary Mushrooms, it's a grower and supplier of mushrooms, available in Dallas-Fort Worth to both chefs and foodies alike.
Black Cat Mushrooms was founded in 2020 as a fun project by John Zaskoda and his son.
Zaskoda, whose day job is production manager for Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, would give the mushrooms he grew to chef friends, and it quickly grew from hobby into a full-fledged business, servicing restaurants such as Tokyo Cafe, Eazy Monkey (the new restaurant from chef Andrew Dilda), Hao's Grocery & Cafe, and garden-to-table favorite Heirloom.
The startup is now fully owned and operated by Zaskoda (whose son is 17 now and "too cool" for mushrooms, Zaskoda says) out of a storefront at 2808 Shamrock Ave. #108, where he grows, stores, and sells mushrooms.
Zaskoda attributes his success to the supportive community of chefs who are interested in what he grows on a weekly basis.
He grows up to 20 varieties, particularly gourmet options such as oyster, lion's mane, chestnut, and shiitake, producing a different number of mushrooms every week. He keeps a subscriber list (firstname.lastname@example.org) and sends out a weekly update with information on what varieties are available to purchase that week.
His shop also sells gear if you want to grow your own including ready-to-grow kits, sterilized bags, and grain spawns.
You do not need to be a gardener to grow mushrooms at home. The process that Black Cat uses at their storefront is the same that anyone with a kit could use: Mushrooms are grown in small batches in a room that receives central air, at an ideal temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but isn't overblown. You need a cool place to place the spawn, heat to speed up the process, and soil to place over the spawn once it is in position.
Avoiding moisture buildup is key, as it guarantees a chance for molding. This process yields a bed of mushrooms ready to be molded.
But being able to buy them grown in such a variety is a plus, whether you're a restaurant chef or adventurous home cook.
The shop's hours are Sunday-Tuesday, with Mondays and Tuesdays are designated for Chef pick-ups.
Mushrooms have enjoyed a big boom in popularity, fueled by the pandemic.
Mushrooms are also a big favorite among vegan chefs who capitalize on their hearty, meat-like texture, using them as a stand-in in recipes for chicken and beef. They're also thought to have big health benefits in areas like warding off cancer, encouraging healthy bacteria, and supporting the immune system.
Zaskoda, who's also a former touring guitarist with Fort Worth band Dirty Pool, describes his passion for growing mushrooms, saying, "I don't just grow mushrooms because they are delicious, I grow them because they are art."
"Chefs get to take it and make art from it, I’m giving them their clay," he says.