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Raw fungus? That'll be ?600 a shot sir! Yorks chef gets hands on ?28,000 truffle ... and he's serving it up in VERY thin slices leedstoday.net BY KATIE BALDWIN
IT'S worth ?28,000, costs ?600 per tiny piece and is kept under lock and key. But this isn't a bar of gold, it's one of the most exclusive edible delicacies. And a chef from Mirfield has got the job of serving it to the rich and famous. Andy Needham has been tasked with dissecting the world's most expensive Italian white truffle as part of his job at a top London restaurant. He is head chef at the Michelin-starred Zafferano in Knightsbridge, named earlier this year as the capital's Italian restaurant of 2004. He will treat the fungus, which cost the restaurant ?28,000 at a charity auction, with the greatest care. Such is the worth of the 850 gram lumpy grey-brown specimen it is kept in a vault in one of the restaurant's fridges, with the only key hanging around Mr Needham's neck. The 33-year-old said it was "very, very rare" to find such a large truffle. "It's all about where the moon is, the weather, spores of the oak trees – it's very rare." Charity Children in Crisis will benefit from the sale of the monster truffle, which was found near Pisa in Tuscany by a farmer and his dog. It was sold through an auction in Italy, which was linked via satellite to London and New York and in total raised more than $100,000 for charity. Mr Needham said they wanted to bid for the truffle because of Zafferano's reputation as a purveyor of the delicacy. Slivers "We have got a very strong clientele of people who come from around the world just to eat truffles in this restaurant," he said. Customers there are served at least 40kg of truffles during the season, which runs from late September until mid-December. The chef will serve raw slivers of the truffle – which cost ?600 per sprinkling and are cut using a super-sharp slicer called a mandolin – on to simple dishes including pasta, rice and polenta. "It's about using all the senses," Mr Needham said of the delicacy's appeal. "It's a very strong aroma more than a flavour. When you see it you are seeing it, smelling it and tasting it." Mr Needham was born in Mirfield and attended Castle Hall School. He trained at the Savoy in London before working in France, Italy and Spain. He was asked to open Zafferano in 1995 because of his experience and ability to speak fluent Italian. Truffles, which form on tree roots, have been a delicacy for hundreds of years with white truffles more costly and sought-after than the black variety found in France. White truffles are used raw while black are cooked. firstname.lastname@example.org 25 November 2004