Truffle Hunting in Italy – Taylor’s Culinary Arts Students Find ‘Black Gold’

The latest culinary study tour took a group of Taylor’s students to northern Italy, where they not only went truffle-hunting but also saw how Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Parma ham and a range of wines are all produced.


Chef Khairul and students visiting the Azienda Agricola Reggiani
During the latest study tour of northern Italy, this group of Taylor’s culinary students headed to Central Bologna. As Chef Khairul, the group’s leader put it, “This region is considered to be one of the best places for truffle hunting in the world. The truffles form this region are considered to have a superior taste and they are often referred to as “black gold” because of their value. Furthermore, these truffles require a specific climate, specific soil and need to be grown near very specific trees in order to be cultivated”. According to Mr Luigi Datillo, CEO of Appennino Foods, the largest truffle exporter of truffles and truffle products in Italy, this group of Taylor’s students were the first have had the extremely rare opportunity to not only harvest but also to be involved “hands on” in processing of truffles. Truffles are considered to be one of the most expensive ingredients in the world, and a 1Kg of Italian Black truffles can cost upwards to U$3,000, with the much-prized Winter truffles costing upwards of U$5,000. The students went alongside an expert guide, and a highly-trained dog, in search of the elusive truffles. They found three truffles ranging from 100gm, to 250gm right up to the largest found on the day - which weighed in at 500gm! The students also got the opportunity to tour the processing factory, and to see the latest food processing techniques. As truffles are very delicate, very special and expensive machinery is needed to handle such a high-value item. The experience for the 26-students ended with them enjoying a 5-course truffle lunch at a Michelin-star trattoria, Amerigo. While this might have been the highlight of the trip, the students experienced much more than this during their study tour. Their experiences included a visit to Azienda Agricola Reggiani, one of the 280 protected producers of “The undisputed King of Cheeses” Parmigiano Regiano. Here the students got to see the step by step process of making this world-famous cheese from curd separation, to salting to even cellar aging. In the Piedmont Region, the students began their tour by visiting the town of Mombaruzzo, where they visited one of the most famous grappa distilleries in the world, Distillerie Berta. Here the students got to tour the world-famous light and music show cellar, which is a modern cellar concept that originated in Japan. The aging barrels of grappa (which is a spirit made from the skin of grapes) is infused with light and music vibrations to enhance the flavor. Set high up on the hills of Modena, the students also got the rare opportunity to visit a Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) factory. As Chef Khairul said, “Again, they experienced from start to finish the long and painstaking process of producing one of the best cured meat products in the world. From salting, to various stages of curing to even the drying process the students were given unlimited access of the whole process - as well as being treated to a traditional Modena lunch overlooking the mountains and valleys”. Later, the students visited Acetaia Pedroni, the oldest producer of Balsamic vinegar in Modena. Here the students got to see the overall process of making REAL traditional balsamic vinegar. This traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for at least 12-years but can be aged longer up to 25-years or more.  As part of the tour, the students also got the chance to enroll in a regional cooking class held in the scenic winery of Agricola Gianpiero Vitticolore, Marrone. The cooking classes were led by the region’s best cooks, the “nonna’s” which is Italian for “grandmothers”. The students got to prepare hands on, regional cuisines such as focaccia, vegetable flan, freshly made “tajarin” pasta, classic meat ragu sauce, braised Piedmontese beef with garden vegetables, as well as spinach and ricotta Ravioli’s and “bunet” chocolate amaretti cookies flan. Of course, no food tour of Italy is complete without a tour of the largest Italian food market brand in the world, EATALY. This complex comprises of a multitude of restaurants, huge arrays of food and beverage counters, artisanal bakeries, retail items, as well as a cooking school. As most Italian products are only available in the particular region it is made from, the EATALY’s concept is to consolidate all these regional artisanal products into one huge gourmet food hall/supermarket - reflecting their tagline “Eataly is Italy”.   Chef Khairul has organised a number of international culinary study tours, including trip to both Italy and Spain.   To find out more about the Taylor’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts click here – (Global Matters 2017)