In anticipation of this year’s upcoming Napa Truffle Festival I spoke with host chef Ken Frank. Chef Ken Frank opened his original La Toque on Sunset Strip at age 23. Since relocating to Napa Valley, his restaurant has been awarded a prestigious Michelin star and the “Grand Award” by Wine Spectator. Widely considered the top truffle chef of North America, he holds the distinct honor of being the first American chef invited to participate in the world-renowned Annual White Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy.
1. Why a truffle festival in Napa Chef Ken?
KF: Napa is an amazing world class culinary destination. People travel from around the world to celebrate food and wine here so it’s just a natural thing to do here. With many local truffieres now planted, we expect Napa to become an important fresh truffle producer.
2. Any tips for those attending for the first time?
KF: Show up curious and hungry.
3. What are the highlights, not-to-miss events from your perspective?
4. How do you choose the guest chefs?
KF: We look at quite a few criteria. Of course I typically invite chefs that I feel have a particular affinity for truffles. But we also look to make each years line up compelling, with Chefs from different places with different stories to share. And we always invite a European chef, typically one selected by my friend Gennaro, my best and longest truffle supplier from Italy.
5. What can you tell us about this year’s guest chefs?
KF: Dean Fearing from Dallas has been a friend of mine almost as long as I have been cooking. He’s not only a fantastic chef, but a larger than life personality that I know our attendees will swoon over. His cooking demo and Winery Truffle Lunch at Davis Estates on Sunday should be a highlight.
Matthias Merges from Chicago goes way back with my Chef de Cuisine Daniel Gomez Sanchez and Daniel has always wanted a chance to get him out here from Chicago to cook with us. His long time tenure as CDC at Charlie Trotter leaves no doubt that he knows his way around a truffle. He’ll be creating the truffle menu for the Winery Truffle Lunch at Nickel & Nickel on Saturday. It will be great.
As usual, Gennaro has lined us up a rising star from Italy. Luca Veritti will be joining us from the Hotel Metropole in Venice where he recently earned a Michelin star.
All the chefs will be participating in the Truffles & Wine Dinner on Saturday, which is always a tour de force!