Life is busier than ever for My Kitchen Rules guest judge Guy Grossi, juggling five Italian restaurants with his charitable work and latest cookbook, Love Italy, as he prepares to head west for the Truffle Kerfuffle, at Fonty's Pool in Manjimup, from June 27-29.
The veteran chef is a natural, born and bred in Melbourne where he honed his skills, and is most in his element at his Bourke Street flagship, Grossi Florentino, with its honest, regional cuisine. "We like to have a place of origin and focus for our food, so you don't just end up with dishes thrown together for creativity's sake," he said.
"In addition to that, Melbourne Italian has its own style, just like New York Italian, because food evolves and draws on the influences around it. Obviously, I love pasta, in particular my mother's tagliatelle - it brings back memories of growing up."
His ultimate food indulgence is white truffles from Alba in Italy, shaved over a dish called the "prince and the pauper" - handmade long pasta with potato.
"They're an amazing luxe experience and hideously expensive," he said. "We pay anything up to $7000/kg. Some Perigord did come through (from Europe) but it's nice to use local produce, so we draw on Manjimup quite a bit. I don't know if it has anything to do with terroir, but Manjimup truffles are amazing."
Grossi is looking forward to going on a truffle hunt at the Truffle Kerfuffle and will join a line-up of top chefs for the Hunt and Harvest dinner launch, which is sold out, on June 27. Grossi will do the marron course; Michele Forbes, from Trustee Bar & Bistro, an amuse bouche; Peter Manifis (Incontro), the entree; Philippe Mouchel (PM24), the main; Guy Jeffries (Millbrook Winery), a cheese plate, and Curtis Duffy, from two-Michelin starred Grace, in Chicago, dessert.
"We try to keep the dinner launch menu hush-hush until the night for that element of surprise," Truffle Kerfuffle president Sonia Porter said. "This year, we've extended the event over three days to include Sunday and make it more accessible to people."
There will be stalls selling gourmet goods, such as pickled walnuts, jams and flavoured almonds, a bustling farmers' market and activities galore, including half-hourly truffle hunts ($40), masterclasses ($65-$145), paddock-to-plate food discussions with radio journalist and author Louise FitzRoy, a three-course Hunt and Harvest long-table lunch ($125) on June 28 prepared by Aaron Carr, from Vasse Felix, Danny Angove (Leeuwin Estate) and Scott Bridger (Bib & Tucker) and a Farmer's Long Table lunch ($125) on June 29 presented by Food Land Culture with chefs Sophie Budd, Kiren Mainwaring (Dear Friends and Co-op Dining) and Joel Valvasori-Pereza (Lalla Rookh).
"It's going to be bigger than Ben Hur," said Manjimup Truffles' Al Blakers, who was expecting the "king of caviar", Raphael Bouchez, from Kaviari, Paris, to drop in.
Blakers is gearing up for a bumper season as crops mature and has been fielding calls since mid-May from chefs in Perth eager for their share. He was due in Perth this week with his first pick.
"Give it another 10-15 years and Manjimup will become the truffle centre of the world," he said. "I export 70-100kg of truffles in season and expect that to double in the next three or four years. France had a poor season because of heavy rains, so our truffles will be in big demand - and we haven't tapped into the world's biggest markets, like Russia. Locally, I'd sell 8-10kg a week."
The Truffle Kerfuffle will be held at Fonty's Pool in Manjimup, June 27-29. More information and tickets at trufflekerfuffle.com.au.