Fifty chefs from Sydney and the surrounding region descended on Canberra this week for a taste of one of the world’s most coveted ingredients—French Perigord truffles produced right here at The Truffle Farm on Mount Majura Road.
Under the watchful gaze of owner and truffle expert Jayson Mesman, the culinary crowd got an immersion into the intricate world of the exclusive fungi, gaping excitedly as rescue dog Dingo scrabbled his way into unearthing a kilo of rich ripe truffles in just under half an hour.
That’s about $2,500 worth for the uninitiated.
The group then feasted on the fruits of Dingo’s labours, enjoying seven courses of multi-layered truffle-inspired dishes, including a cured kingfish with yuzu ponzu and truffle, beef tartare with quail egg and truffle, a mushroom agnolotti and a liquid nitrogen spectacle of honey and truffle infused icecream with honeycomb and fig.
The feast was cooked by The Truffle Farm’s two executive chefs, Kanharith (Kandy) Kim (whom Jayson lured from Peter Gilmore’s Quay in Sydney) to work alongside Thomas Heinrich, formerly of Table and Sage Dining Rooms.
Jayson has turned what was previously a modest hobby farm into a local success story, combining his talents as a former Customs dog trainer and handler with a deep knowledge of the mysterious life cycle of the subterranean ascomycete fungus.
He has since overseen a significant redevelopment of The Truffle Farm facilities, including building a dining hall and barn to hold major events, while his kitchen is creating some of the most high-calibre food in the city.
Jayson, a Marist College graduate, first began working for Customs as a dog trainer, teaching his canine companions to sniff out contraband and taking part in a number of high-profile and successful assignments while he worked in Western Australia.
But a chance encounter with some hopeful truffle investors saw Jayson set his sights not on illicit substances, but on the elusive tubers.
His natural affinity as a dog handler saw him able to train up superior truffle hounds and together man and dog began to achieve truffle bounties both in Australia and across Europe. Eventually, Jayson managed to finance the purchase of the picturesque hills at Majura and settle at his own truffle farm.
Jayson’s passion for the industry is all-encompassing. He wants to cement the ACT as a premier producer of truffles and increase exports around the country, as well as encourage more experimentation and adventure with the seasonal crop to make it more accessible.
He sees education as crucial in encouraging chefs to get the best out of their truffles and spreading greater truffle appreciation among diners.
After the day’s farm experience and Kandy and Thomas’ expertise in the kitchen, a number of the invited chefs had a new appreciation for the ingredient.
Two young chefs working their way up in Luke Mangan’s Luke’s Kitchen, Braithen Vella and Curtis Lawson, said they had never eaten truffle paired with seafood and were buzzing with ideas to take back to their test kitchen.
Meanwhile, seasoned truffle enthusiast and chef at Fratelli Fresh and Bar Patrón, Hugo Suire, said there still seemed to be a lot of misinformation about truffles in the industry. For instance, some chefs did not understand the need to infuse the flavour of truffles rather than just shaving it over the top of a dish.
Up-and-coming chef and owner of K. Malu Kitchen and Bar in Wollongong, Keana Lufe, said she had never eaten so much truffle in one meal. She had trouble picking a favourite but she looked forward to serving Canberra truffles in Wollongong.
While the chefs lived it up this week, experiencing truffles at The Truffle Farm is open to all.
Jayson and his pack of specially-trained dogs, many of whom have been rescued from death row because they are notorious retrievers and not the quiet fire-side hounds people assume, are always on the property, happy to give talks and tours and even take you truffling during truffle season (May-September).
Four brand new puppies are currently in training and are worth the trip alone for the cuteness factor (just ask our Online Editor Bea Smith…).
And if you just want to savour the taste of the famed French Black Perigord, you can forget the digging and the dirt and just head straight to a table in the dining room, to feast on some of the city’s finest food or purchase your own to take home to savour.
For more details on events and offerings at The Truffle Farm you can go here.
What: The Truffle Farm
Where: 23 Mount Majura Road, Majura
When: 6.30-9.30 pm Tuesday-Friday, 9.30 am-9.30 pm Saturday, 9 am-5 pm Sunday
Images by Andrew Ly.