My views on truffle oil are probably becoming clear to readers of this blog, and I’m always glad to get support in high places — in this case from Joel Robuchon and Alain Passard in France. They’re upset at the increasing use of flavour additives in classical French cuisine, of which arôme de truffe is just one example. Adam Sage covers the issue at The Times Online:
“It is shameful,” said M Passard, who claims to use only natural ingredients at his celebrated Parisian restaurant, l’Arpège. “I don’t know what to call the people who use these chemicals, but they are not cooks. Cooking is about seasons and nature.”
M Robuchon, widely considered to be one of the most talented chefs of the past 20 years, agreed. He said: “I am 200 per cent against the use of artificial flavours and additives.” However, such flavours appear to be an increasingly common ingredient in French cuisine, with chefs looking for quick, cheap recipes.
Many of the arômes come from Chef Simon, a French restaurant supplier. Their site is an eye opener. This, for instance, is how to make oeufs aux truffes sans truffes sans truffes. “Oeufs aux truffes” are truffled eggs (recipe in my book). “Oeufs aux truffes sans truffes” are truffled eggs without truffles — that is, the eggs are truffled by storage with truffles, and absorb a lot of flavour. You can cook them without truffle and still enjoy a good hit of flavour. “Oeufs aux truffes sans truffes sans truffes” are that dish made without any real truffle at all, by using their arôme. And they claim it’s astonishing. I claim it’s fraud.
They also suggest that it’s OK to use cheap Chinese truffles, with a dose of arôme. If there are restaurateurs who think serving that to their customers is acceptable, they should be shot. But there are plenty prepared to overuse truffle oil… Education is the key. They all need to read my book…