Mycologist and mushroom farmer Robin Schultz is the proud owner of The Mushroom Emporium, in Wigley, near Chesterfield. Originally from North London, the 40-year-old father to Jack, 14, Amber, nine and newborn twins Sammy and Sophia, Robin is passionate about gourmet mushrooms and Derbyshire produce. Here, he shares his food loves.

Tell us about The Mushroom Emporium

It was my father, Ian's, idea. A man who’s always conjuring up weird and wonderful schemes to make a buck and make a difference. The idea for mushroom growing I really liked and together we started researching the industry around five years ago. We launched the first incarnation in 2021 in Northamptonshire with a goal to create ‘grow your own from home’ mushroom kits – our Fungi FarmBox. This gave people the opportunity to grow bountiful gourmet mushrooms, varying in flavour, colour and texture at great prices. They also offer a wealth of nutritional and health benefits, plus giving a glimpse into the fascinating world of fungi.

After a trip to the Peaks, and falling for Derbyshire's charms, an opportunity arose to set up shop here at the start of 2023. The Mushroom Emporium is proud to call Derbyshire its new home; initially selling our grow kits both online and at the exceptional artisan and producer markets found locally. A chef named Olly sampled our oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms and encouraged us to grow fresh gourmet mushrooms for chefs and restaurants in Derbyshire. This has been an exciting new aspect to the business which continues to grow and develop.

First dish you learned to cook?

A sandwich. I have become a master sandwich maker over the years. Real butter, deep fill it with your chosen ingredients and then mayo it up to the max!

Most vivid childhood food memory?

My brother Karl and me would raid the fridge, grab a bowl each, sit at the table and make a concoction of weird and wonderful ingredients. There would be stuff like yogurt, ketchup, jam, pickles, milk, chocolate pieces and Tabasco. Season well, then mix it all together. We would face each other, chow down, and pretend to enjoy it. When we had finished this façade, we would aim our spoons at each other and let the battle commence. My poor mother!

Most memorable meal out?

A recent meal out with family. We went to a Brazilian restaurant, El Vaqueros, in Mill Hill, North London. You help yourself to a beautiful salad bar and then the waiting staff come around with dozens of succulent barbecued meats.

Your go-to snack?

Sandwich. Quick, easy and always tasty when I make them.

If you weren't running The Mushroom Emporium, what would you be doing?

Rock star! I’ve always played guitar and been in bands since I was little. So, travelling the world, soaking up different cultures, partying, entertaining people and doing something I enjoy most would be ideal. I’m pretty sure there’d be some other perks too.

Dream dinner guest?

Paul McCartney! Hands down my absolute hero. I would feed him a mushroom risotto with a bottle of red then pass him the acoustic guitar. His back catalogue of songs are untouchable, and he can do it all, from love ballad to heavy rock! He seems like a real nice fella too.

Guilty food pleasure?

Chewy sweets. Fizzy sour ones are my favourite. I don’t share, not even with the kids.

Your Derbyshire food heroes?

Each and every one of the chefs that have supported me and helped get The Mushroom Emporium up and running in Derbyshire. They are a real friendly bunch, who go out of their way to support local farmers and use fresh local produce.

A food industry person who inspires?

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I admire the River Cottage TV show and have watched it for years. I love that lifestyle of growing your own veg, rearing your own animals, foraging and fishing whilst working with the community in a symbiotic way so all can benefit. A nice little cottage in the quiet countryside wouldn’t go-amiss either.

A place you love to eat?

My mum’s house. She has been a chef for years and really makes the most wonderful food, real hearty, healthy and warming. When you take a bite of her cottage pie, you know you are truly home.

My favourite ingredient

Mushrooms, obviously. Since working with the outstanding chefs in Derbyshire, I’ve seen what wonderful and varied dishes that can be created with this versatile ingredient. Lions’ mane, also known as Hericium Erinaceus, is a mushroom in the tooth fungus group. Native to Asia, Europe and North America (now cultivated in Derbyshire), this unusual looking mushroom can be found in woodland growing on dead and living trees in late summer and autumn,’ says Robin. ‘It has been used as a medicinal mushroom for thousands of years, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. Studies have shown the potential benefits span physical, cognitive and mental health. It exhibits disease-fighting properties, including anti-cancer, anti-microbial and antioxidant activity. It truly is a super food and tastes amazing! It has a mildly sweet flavour, likened to seafood such as lobster. Its meaty, tender texture has made it work incredibly well as a mushroom steak. A must try for all mushroom fans.

A career highlight?

What! Apart from featuring in this wonderful magazine? Well, it’s got to be seeing my Derbyshire grown gourmet mushrooms featuring on the menu of so many of the prestigious and award-winning restaurants we have in the county.

What’s next?

More mushroom strains will be added to the Fungi FarmBox collection, some very unique and exotic varieties to look forward too. Due to the ever-growing fresh orders we are receiving, a larger farm building is on the cards.

We work closely with our chef friends and are about to start a few exciting collaborative projects. I can’t say too much, but we will definitely be working on some medicinal mushroom products. Our zero-waste policy means utilising everything, so mushroom sauces created by Derbyshire chefs is an idea. Have you ever tried an oyster mushroom wine? The jury’s out on that one.