Food, much like fashion, goes through trends. Different diets are popular at different times, and so are individual food items.
Still, other foods are viewed as a sign of status and wealth. Of course, popular or expensive does not always mean something is the best. In fact, there is one popular ingredient that several celebrity chefs agree is awful.
If you are dining out at a fancy restaurant or even a gastropub, there is a likely chance you will spot truffle on the menu. Truffle is a popular ingredient in restaurants because it conjures up images of decadence and grandeur due to the high price tag attached.
The sought after ingredient is a fungus that grows on the roots of trees. It is increasingly rare and can’t be farmed or mass-produced. Instead, they are still individually harvested to this day with the help of pigs and dogs.
On top of that, truffles only grow for a season and should only be used when fresh. The scarcity makes them a luxurious ingredient that costs in the neighborhood of $2 thousand a pound.
Of course, scarcity creates demand, and manufacturers found a way to quench the consumer thirst for truffles by creating truffle oil. The oil is used to make truffle fries, pastas, and more. The problem is, almost no truffle oil contains any truffle at all.
Traditionally, truffle oil is high-quality olive oil infused with truffle. Due to demand, and to drive prices down, producers infuse olive oil with chemicals that resemble the truffle’s unique aroma.
Truffles have a unique taste and scent. Respected chef Alex Guarnaschelli explains truffle odor by saying: “It conjures up images of a locker room. But the aroma deceptively conceals their complex yet delicate taste. They are sublime.”
Head chefs worldwide concur with Guarnashelli’s opinion of this scarce fungus. Upscale restaurants shave this delicacy over steaks, pasta, and other fare.
Truffle oil is found on a lot of well-respected menus as well. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be for the love of the taste. Instead, experts presumed that chefs add truffle oil to dishes because the general population views it as extravagant and, therefore, willing to pay a higher price.
Chefs hate truffle oil
Despite restaurants and their patrons’ love of truffle oil, a lot of chefs feel quite differently. Celebrity chefs and other respected food experts have spoken out about their hatred of truffle oil. The consensus is that it is overused and overrated.
Famed food critic, Anthony Bourdain, shared his opinion of truffle oil on The Tonight Show, “about as edible as Astroglide and made from the same stuff.”
Good Eats host, Alton Brown, feels very much the same. When asked about truffle oil Brown replied simply that it sucks.
Famous businesswoman, Martha Stewart, doesn’t believe anyone should use truffle oil due to its flavor and fakeness. She did not mince words when she said, “They’ve done many studies on truffle oil. It’s synthetic, it’s fake, it’s horrible. It clings to your tastebuds, it’s a hideous thing. Forget truffle oil.”
It is evident that a large percent of chefs do not care for truffle oil, but truffles themselves also seem to be questionable. Celebrity chef, Giada De Laurentiis, thinks truffles are overused. She explained, “It doesn’t make you more of a gourmet cook to use truffle in everything. It’s very overpowering. Use in moderation! It’s been overused a little too much.” When in doubt, it appears it is best to leave the truffles out.