Meet the Bay Area’s No. 1 fungi fanatic

Todd Spanier calls himself “the mushroom king” for a reason. With his 7-foot stature, passion for the fungi kingdom and star-studded clientele, it’s hard to deny the regal rights of this mushroom purveyor.

Spanier, 33, owns the store King of Mushrooms in Daly City and is one of the most successful mushroom retailers in the Bay Area. He supplies fresh truffles, porcinis, chanterelles and many less-well-known fungi to Whole Foods, private chefs, catering companies and 250 restaurants, including Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. Chefs at the famous Berkeley eatery often call Spanier on his personal cell phone to request 10 pounds of his best product. He also leads foraging trips for chefs and hosts five-course mushroom dinners at local restaurants.

Standing in the dim, cold room next to the mushroom freezer, Spanier proudly tells of the huge porcini mural he has been painting on the outside walls of his business. “When I’m finished, I plan to put ‘Welcome to the Kingdom’ in huge letters,” he said.

Spanier has operated out of Daly City for three years, but he started King of Mushrooms 10 years ago after dropping out of college. When he was a child, his European grandparents taught him about edible species and where to find them around the Bay. By the time he was a teenager, he started spending time at the local Mycological Society meetings and learned mushrooms’ biology.

“It was a hobby, but I didn’t make the connection with selling mushrooms,” Spanier says.

Spanier tried playing basketball and brewing beer, but after a college trip to Italy, where he saw stores specializing in mushrooms, he decided to start his own business. Ten years ago, he supplied one customer; today, he sells 1 ton of mushrooms a day. He thinks his success is due to Bay Area’s ever-growing immigrant population.

“No matter what country you are from in Europe or Asia, you more than likely love mushrooms,” he said. “That’s what I love about mushrooms — they are a common denominator between different cultures.”

svasilyuk@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read