SIMON FRIENDQ&A With An Aussie Truffle Expert | 0 Comments
AN INTERVIEW WITH SIMON FRIEND OF FRIEND AND BURRELL FINE FOODS, 'THE WORLD'S FINEST FOODS'
Simon Friend is one of the partners in Friend and Burrell Fine Foods, one of Australia’s premiere truffle exporters. He has been in the gourmet food business for many years, initially in seafood. He was raised in a fishing family and over the last 20 years has been importing and exporting seafood – his most recent venture was in Sulawesi, Indonesia to develop an export market for sashimi grade tuna. Simon oversees the export business of Friend and Burrell, and of late, he has been venturing into Southeast Asia, introducing Australia’s finest black truffle, the Tuber Melanosporum, to countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
He agreed to disclose a little about himself and his passion for truffles and gourmet foods in an interview with EDE ONLINE.
How is your personality reflected in your line of work? What personality traits do you think are important for this vocation?
A relaxed personality is best but it’s also important to reflect a passion for the subject and the product. Make sure you also have a good pen and a rare baseball cap
Who was/is your mentor?
My father always has been my greatest mentor; I talk with him every day, along with my business partner, Bryan Burrell. Bryan has taught me many things and nurtured both my strengths and weaknesses – as an old friend does.
Describe your idea of the perfect truffle culinary experience.
For me, it’s fresh pasta with a good butter. Grate in a truffle at the end of the process and toss it through the pasta. Enjoy with good friends
What do you consider to be one of your most important learning experiences?
Learning to respect life and all walks of life. Getting up each day and understanding that my life, my friends and my family are all a blessing.
What are the ‘key’ ingredients to your success?
Aiming to always do my best and ensuring I only deal with good people.
Can you tell us about the truffles that you distribute – the Black Winter Truffle or Tuber Melanosporum – and how they are unique?
All truffles are unique but Melanosporum is the best to eat of the black-fleshed variety. What makes truffles unique is how nature produces them and how complex they are in terms of the amount of different compounds that they are made up of. Not to mention the variety of aromas they are capable of producing depending on the region and the terroir from which they come.
What current truffle recipes would you recommend to connoisseurs?
You can see the Friend and Burrell website for recipe recommendations. This being said I like truffles best in pasta, eggs and with ice cream.
What are some of the most innovative uses for truffles that you’ve witnessed recently?
Truffle Marshmallows at Vue De Monde [one of Melbourne’s best fine dining venues] where we had a special truffle dinner with dogs present and truffles from four different regions of Australia.
For the virgin truffle consumer, what introductory dish would you recommend they try?
Fresh pasta with quality French butter such as Echire. A splash of fresh cream (optional), a splash of olive oil (optional) – cook and drain the pasta and add the butter and cream and olive oil. Grate in 40 grams of fresh black melanosporum truffle onto the pasta, then stir the truffle through the pasta while on heat, the heat of the pasta sets off the truffle and infuses the flavour. It tastes like a forest in your mouth.
Can you describe a few of your favourite gourmet truffle / food pairings?
Fresh asparagus and truffle. Mashed potato and truffle. Scrambled eggs and truffle. Truffles on toast.
What are the differences between the truffles you’re producing in Australia and those typical of Europe? Is there any difference in the methods used between old world and new world truffle countries?
The old world methods seem to produce more truffles, while new world methods are often misconstrued and misunderstood. Truffles are different in Europe depending on the type of ground they are coming from, which is the same case in Australia or anywhere else in the world where they are trying to cultivate truffle.
What would you say are the current trends for truffle consumption? Do you see an emerging market in Asia?
There certainly is, I have just returned from Singapore where we are exporting there this year. There is an affluence now in Asia which is recognized in the number of fine dining restaurants. We can expect the younger generations now to want to see what eating good truffle dishes is all about.
Can you name five items that you always keep in your fridge at home?
Caviar, Iberico Bellota jamon, unsalted French butter, Sardinian bottarga and Spanish mojama.
Besides educating people about truffles and running your own company what are your interests or hobbies?
Playing tennis and golf with friends, and sharing good food and wine with special friends.
The green/organic lifestyle: how important is it to you personally and to the truffle industry?
The word ‘organic’ is a bit farcical to me – things are either grown or produced with chemicals or without chemicals. I come from a fishing family. We catch fish in the sea and we don’t call the fish organic, we call them fish that live in the sea – some seas are full of human pollutants hence the fish is no good to eat but we don’t call that non-organic. For me, sustainable food seems a much more sensible description of food [that I am sourcing and exporting].
If you could choose your last food and beverage experience in life what would it include?
It would be a feast for friends and family. It would involve a 5 year aged, acorn-fed Joselito Iberico from Spain, Golden Oscietra Caviar from the Iranian Caspian Sea (caught wild), White Alba truffles with fresh scampi and pasta, ciabatta from my favourite French patisserie, French butter, a leg of lamb cooked by my mate Tim, fresh peas, roasted potatoes – the Dutch cream variety, fresh home grown tomatoes with real flavour flown in from Italy with my mate Sam’s olive oil, cracked pepper (and some of that New Zealand white drop) grass-fed Wagyu no-grain beef (using the OP ribs, 750 grams per rib). I love good meat on the bone; it has more flavour. I’m also not a fan of grain fed meat. I’d have Bryan Lloyd, from The Point, matching wines; he’s the best sommelier and front of house man I know. We’d have the meal at my mate Shagger’s home (real name Leon) where I had my 50th birthday 3 years ago. My friends and family still recall the food from that night because I had made the effort and invited a young talented chef Toby Lee (I knew of his talent – he was actually the ‘Young Chef of the Year’ in Australia) to cook dishes based on ingredients I provided. I would also select the most charming front of house staff available to make my friends and family feel special – I’d want them to be raving on about it for months, if not years.
What inspires you and influences your work?
I like people – especially ones with character.
I like stories and making people happy in their daily grind if I can – I also like to be different – I get bored with process and predictability so therefore truffles are a perfect match for me as they are always full of surprises.
I also like selling the most expensive products and ingredients in the world; I get that part from my mother’s exclusive taste. I love kitchens – they are alive and full of vibrancy.
How did you become an expert on truffles (your background was in seafood – how did you make the jump)?
I have a friend named Alistair, the creative director for an advertising firm, and one day he said, “That business card of yours is not up to speed, I will design one for you.” He brought me five options of card designs, all of which had the text “World’s Finest Foods”. I replied “That’s a big thing to say” and he said “That’s what you want to offer, isn’t it?”, so from then on our path was set. It was a natural progression from there to find and source the best products for the best chefs which we continue to do.
Who in the world would you most like to sit down with for a fully indulgent meal (obviously involving truffles)?
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
Being fortunate enough to marry a great girl and having a wonderful son – who tells me every day he loves me.
What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?