Nigel is one of Australia’s most trusted truffle experts and is the founder of Truffle Paddock. The brand is named after his farm near Phillip Island. Truffle Paddock farm produces fresh black winter truffle which is sold to chefs and retail customers across Australia during the winter truffle season. He is also the founder of Truffle Melbourne, which runs an annual winter truffle festival program of more than 80 events including a weekend festival (now the largest outside Europe). The program usually runs from June through to August and includes truffle hunts at a number of Victorian truffle farms, truffle dining events and an education program for chefs.
How is the Truffle season looking?
Truffles are a seasonal pleasure and once the cooler weather arrives, they’ll ripen and be ready – so only a few weeks to wait now. You can never be really sure about how many there’ll be each year, but the early signs for the 2020 season are looking great – in our Truffle Paddock there are lots of truffles poking their heads through the soil right now – so I have my fingers crossed!
What does the future look like for small producers?
2020 will be a very challenging season for a lot of growers – large and small, as many restaurants in Australia and around the world are closed, drying up a lot of the wholesale and export markets (75% of Australia’s truffles are exported). But every year the number of people across the world appreciating the seasonal joys of fresh truffles is growing – and with lots of iso cooking going on, I reckon even more people will be hanging out to savour fresh truffles or experiment with truffle products this season. So 2020 is likely to be a bit of a “swings and roundabouts” year, but I’m optimistic about the future of the industry.
What will be happening with the festival this year?
The Truffle Melbourne festival weekend attracts tens of thousands of people to the Queen Vic Market each year, but because of lockdown protocols, unfortunately, that can’t happen this year. But the truffles don’t know about the virus – they’re coming to the party anyway, so we’re expecting lots of people to come to our Queen Vic Market Pop Up this season, we’ll be creating some online truffle recipes and working with our chef friends to organise some truffle take-outs across town.
How are you handling lockdown personally?
I’ve been in iso at Truffle Paddock farm for a month now, which is the best time to be here as I can better manage the farm with the truffles almost here. At other times of the year I’m usually at the farm on weekends, and busy with our Truffle Paddock products in the city during the week.
Early season truffles which poke above the soil need to be covered so they won’t be attacked by pests and will ripen properly, and there are always lots of jobs at any farm, so I’ve been busy with those too. My baking skills have really improved too – I love the tactile nature of working with doughs for breads or pizzas. I’ve also been able to cook something new most days with daily harvests from our veggie patch.
What’s helping you get through this period?
Getting dirt under my fingers in the paddock every day! And I’m really enjoying being closer to changes in the season. I like watching the grazing kangaroo “families” and getting to understand each group. I like seeing the rapid growth of mushrooms around the trees in the Truffle Paddock – these are a great indicator for how widely the tree roots have spread and therefore where truffles can be found.
Finally, the luxury of being able to isolate on a sixty-acre farm with lots of native forest to stroll through and a wonderful array of native animals in our other paddocks – including the odd nocturnal wombat strolling past – it’s a very different experience from pacing the three-metre balcony in our Melbourne apartment!
Find out more:
Truffle Paddock is Australia’s leading specialist truffle producer, exclusively using Australian grown French black winter truffle in all of their products, unlike most imported truffle products which use cheap summer truffle. The Truffle Paddock range features everyone’s favourite truffle products – oils, salts and honeys, and also some innovative and world exclusive products such as the hugely popular Ponzu Sauce, Truffle Aioli and Truffle Dijonnaise and Truffle Salad Dressing.