Why Curtis Stone Has Such A Fascination With White Truffles

Australian-born celebrity chef Curtis Stone learned everything he knows about cooking from his mother and grandmother. Everything except when it comes to truffles. "When I grew up cooking, Australia didn't produce any truffles," the chef explains. "We just heard about them. We read about them, and we never saw them." 

It wasn't until Stone left Australia and started cooking in Europe that he had his first experience with truffles. "I remember smelling them for the first time in a restaurant, and I was like, 'holy sh*t, that's an intense smelling item,'" he explains. "And then when you taste it, it [was] like a transformative thing to me." Once Stone got a taste for the fancy ingredient, he was determined to learn as much as he could about them. "I've done a lot of study on truffles," the chef says, and since then, he's been on truffle hunts in Italy's Umbria region as well as the areas in Australia where truffles can now be found.

A fungi that grow underground, truffles are one of the most expensive ingredients out there because of their seasonality and how difficult they are to grow. But if you get a chance to try them, they add a particular flavor to recipes. Available in white or black, Stone says he prefers white truffles because they have "the richest of the flavors." But that's not the only reason he's such a fan. Stone believes "there's something about it that makes you feel more than just taste." 

Truffles could be considered an aphrodisiac

But that feeling isn't relegated to humans. Stone shares that the reason pigs are used for truffle hunting is that the fungi contain the sex hormone androstenol, a compound also excreted by male pigs right before they mate, which is why sows are usually the truffle hunters. "So, it's a sexual attraction, which is a ridiculous thing to say, but it's like, chemically, that's the closest thing to the pig's pheromone," Stone explains. "So, that's why they're so enraged to get them and find them — because who goes digging in the ground for their dinner when it's everywhere, right? Especially if you're a pig, there's sh*t everywhere," the chef says, laughing. 

While that attraction helps with discovery, once found, the pigs often eat the truffles, which means the human owners have a hard time getting them away from their hunters. They've even been known to lose a finger or two while trying to grab it. This hunger, plus the size of the pig (usually a few hundred pounds), is why dogs have joined the truffle hunting ranks. 

So, what's the best way to serve this love drug? "Scramble some eggs and shave it over [those], or [over] fresh pasta, just with butter and salt ... keep it very simple," says Stone.