Le Bernardin’s apricot sorbet and chamomile ice cream, infused with Nature’s Fynd dairy-free cream cheese. (Courtesy Nature’s Fynd)
Le Bernardin’s apricot sorbet and chamomile ice cream, infused with Nature’s Fynd dairy-free cream cheese. (Courtesy Nature’s Fynd)

A Microscopic Fungus From Yellowstone’s Hot Springs Is Spurring a New Culinary Movement

Fy is the central ingredient in the Chicago-based company Nature’s Fynd’s sustainable protein products, which range from breakfast patties to cream cheese.
By Julian Shen-Berro
October 27, 2022
3 minute read

Born beneath the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, a microscopic fungus is spurring a new culinary movement. Fy, short for “Fusarium of Yellowstone,” has sprouted into the limelight as a sustainable alternative for conscientious diners, and has begun to germinate in menus and stores across the United States.

Nature’s Fynd, a Chicago-based company producing and distributing Fy-based products, came out of a partnership between scientists, explorers and “optimists” seeking to cultivate a sustainable food source out of fy. Today, it ships out a medley of fungi-based foods—with Fy breakfast patties and a maple-flavored alternative, as well as two flavors of dairy-free cream cheese. Fast-growing and more sustainably produced than a majority of other products on the market, Fy presents a new option for vegetarian-forward and ethically-minded consumers. Highly versatile, too, it’s capable of forming a substitute meat product as easily as a protein-packed powder or liquid.

Consumers can rest easy knowing that, according to the company, Fy uses less water, land, and energy than animal-based proteins. To help explain how Fy came to be, the company brought on YouTube star Hank Green, whose science brain has garnered immense internet fame, to create an informational video reminiscent of his “Crash Course” and “SciShow” productions.

As explained by Green, the fungus was discovered during a NASA-backed study at Yellowstone National Park in which scientists were investigating what forms of life could thrive under extreme conditions. “Sooner or later,” Green says, “someone decided to lick it.” Nowadays, for commercial purposes, Fy grows in trays, fermenting starches and sugars from plants into protein—a process that can be easily replicated in sprawling cities and other environments not conducive to traditional agricultural efforts. (New York City’s Smallhold is another player at the forefront of the urban mushroom-propagation space.) Fy has even made its way into orbit, with Nature’s Fynd launching its protein bioreactor (the device that produces Fy) into space earlier this year in collaboration with NASA.

Green isn’t the only celebrity betting big on Fy. Eric Ripert, a Top Chef guest judge and the chef and co-owner of the three-Michelin-star Midtown Manhattan restaurant Le Bernardin (and the guest of Ep. 80 of our Time Sensitive podcast, out November 9), serves as a culinary advisor to Nature’s Fynd. Through Ripert, Fy has found its place in the finest of dining rooms, appearing in several items on his restaurant’s menu. The vegetarian tasting menu, for example, features a warm potato-olive-Fy parfait, crafted with dairy-free cream cheese derived from the fungus. The same cream cheese appeared in a cheesecake at the restaurant—a Fy-filled squash blossom accompanied by a blackberry sorbet.

With fine dining already in the mix and a trip to space in its rear-view-mirror, a “high-Fy” diet future could very well be on the horizon.