Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Truffle Revolution Comes to Western Pa

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Truffle Revolution Comes to Western Pa

Article excerpt

Perhaps you didn't know an American Truffle Revolution exists. But it does, and Robert Chang will attest to it.

He is the chief truffle officer of American Truffle Co. who will speak about the truffle revolution at the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club's annual Gary Lincoff Mushroom Foray on Saturday in the Rose Barn at North Park in McCandless.

His company seeks to improve truffle growing through scientific process.

Mr. Chang had his first truffle encounter about 15 years ago during a two-year stint living in Europe. He visited an Italian trattoria in, of all places, the German city of Munich. Truffles were on the menu.

He had heard about truffles - "how much of a delicacy they are and how expensive they are" - but up to that point had never tried them. So he ordered the truffles in a simple preparation - tagliatelle pasta tossed with butter and topped with shaved truffles.

"It was love at first bite," he said.

After coming back to the United States, he began wondering how hard it would be to grow them.

It turns out, traditionally, it has been quite hard. Mr. Chang said growers have historically faced a 98 percent failure rate. Truffles are finicky to grow, and the crop takes a long time - about five to seven years from the planting of the truffle-inoculated saplings.

Mr. Chang began searching for reliable truffle-growing science, but much of what he found was more myth than true scientific data. He found his exception in Paul Thomas, a British truffle scientist who had begun working with European truffle growers. They met at a London pub for a one-hour meeting that turned into four hours, and the scientist eventually asked Mr. Chang to become his business partner, leading truffle operations in North America.

Mr. Thomas works with truffle growers in 25 countries on four continents from Finland to Australia. …

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