White Truffles Sell for Upwards of $100K in High-Priced Food Auctions

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Wed. November 23rd, 2016 - by Jessica Donnel

PHILADELPHIA, PA & PIEDMONT, ITALY - One of the world’s priciest auctions took place earlier this month, and instead of affluent art traders gathering for an unearthed Picasso, or antique lovers clamoring for a 15th century armoire, this event saw some of the world’s top chefs going to battle over mere ounces of Alba White Truffle.

At simultaneous events 4,000 miles apart, in both Philadelphia and Piedmont, Italy, the culinary world joined for the 17th annual World Alba White Truffle Charity Auction. Bidders were faced with several truffles ranging in size from almost half a pound to close to one and a half pounds. And with NPR reporting an average price of $458 per shroomy ounce, this auction was certainly no joke.

Five lots of white truffles on display entice bidders in both Philadelphia and Italy. Image via Kristen Hartke for NPR.

The real prize of the night, however?  

The Grande Truffle, a more than two and a half pound trove of deliciousness, that had bidders in Philadelphia and Piedmont going head to head via simulcast, scrambling to walk away with the rare gigantic treat.

After a tense cross-ocean throwdown, NPR reports, Dong Zhenxiang, Chef-Owner of world-renowned Da Dong Roast Duck in Beijing, China, won with a winning bid of €105,000, or about $112,000

"I think that Americans are fascinated by truffles," says Mauro Carbone, General Manager of Italian tourism company Tu Langhe Roero. "The very thin skin of the truffle is influenced by the soil around it, so no two are the same. When you buy a truffle, it's your truffle. No one else will ever have one just like it."

Left: The Alba White Truffle Charity Auction. Right: Executive Chef Martin Hamann shaves white truffles at the Union League of Philadelphia. Images via Kristen Hartke for NPR.

The much-craved white truffle has had the culinary world enamored for some time now. A mushroom that is grown around tree roots, truffles traditionally cannot be cultivated in a farm environment, and used to be foraged by trained pigs.

NPR likens the white truffle's flavor to garlic, musk, and cabbage, calling for a simplistic, raw preparation. Chefs often shave white truffles over freshly made pasta, or pair with lobster and filet mignon.

"It's a perfect storm for a chef," says Patterson Watkins, Executive Chef for Philadelphia’s Di Bruno Bros. "This is what we all live for." 

This wasn’t all for decadence, however. The National Italian American Foundation used $60,000 of the proceeds to support ongoing earthquake relief efforts following quakes that struck central Italy in August and October.

Will another produce item soon find itself in the $100,000 price range with its own dedicated auction? AndNowUKnow will be the first to let you know the hottest culinary trends.