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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Just say ‘no’ to TV chefs, ‘yes’ to truffle salt

Food Television: The nemesis to any good chef, and the bastion of misinformation for two generations of viewers and connoisseurs of fine dining. The sanctimonious airs of hosts on the now-many food channels drives me insane, but we have to live with it as it is now a part of our culture.
To be fair, I will give accolades to one cooking show and that is “Master Chef Jr.,” where young (and sometimes very young) kids try their hand in the kitchen while getting mentored by world-class chefs. I like this show because the hosts seem to be a bit more real and personable than in the other shows, but don’t even get me started on the silly shows like “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Chopped,” or any of the other myriad shows that are much more about entertainment than actual cooking.
Recently I was flipping through the channels when I came across an “editorial” by one of the main hosts for Food TV who was lecturing us, the lowly viewers, on using too much truffle salt and truffle oil on our food. While I understand his tirade was aimed at people who put it on everything, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question: “Weren’t you the ones who told the viewers to start using the blasted stuff five or six years ago?”
Like any programming, when an item or subject is trendy or useful, a channel will saturate the day’s, week’s and month’s shows with little nuggets that help to promote said topic. Now, in hindsight, we’re being lectured that we’re using it too much. Well, I say poppycock to you, good sir.
I will continue to use truffle oil and truffle salt as I have for well over a decade. One of the joys of being in this business is having exposure to really cool ingredients and accoutrements before they are trendy or popular. Working with specialty food brokers gives us an edge in a risky business where we are simply trying to stay one step ahead of our telly-educated guests.
But, as this simple editorial shows us, now it could be dangerous for a chef to use dreaded truffle oil or truffle salt for fear of being “simple” or “indulgent” because of the airtime given this travesty by Food TV. This is the danger that I have written about before; the over-saturation of information in foodies the worldwide who go out and profess their newfound knowledge to any chef, waiter or manager who will listen. Truth be told, we can’t help but to listen to customers when they come in to our restaurants and tell us that our shrimp salad is wrong, wrong, wrong because of what they saw on “The Barefoot Contessa” on Wednesday night. Years ago, I had a guest tell me that my cream of crab soup was “OK,” but it would have been better if I had simply emulsified my celery a bit more. Ten years later, I’m still scratching my head on that one.
Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am, a little. But more to the point, I’m annoyed that programming has reached a level that it is now dictating what ingredients people shall and shall not use, and if you don’t think that food programming is that powerful, just consider the millions of dollars and countless resources that are being poured into the industry on an annual basis.
No, Ted, I will not stop using truffle oil or truffle salt. In fact, I’m going to fly in the face of your superior reasoning and share a simple request that will make you spin in your throne. I may even call it “Truffle Day” on which everyone will put truffle salt and/or truffle oil on everything that they eat for an entire day just to spite your editorial, but for today we’ll start with tater tots.
I have had these tater tots in Baltimore, Kansas City, Orlando, Rehoboth and Bethany, Ocean City, St. Louis and I’m sure I’ll find them in Phoenix in July. They are delicious, not only because they bring back nostalgic memories of the third grade, but because the manufactured flakes of potato leave us with crispy outsides, soft and steaming insides and a drizzle of the potent truffle and olive oil accentuated with Parmigiano-Reggiano atop the whole mess.
Yes, I will continue to use truffle salt, and no amount of spice shaming that you can muster will stop me. “Vive la sel de Truffe!” is my call to arms today, next week, and forever.
Truffle Tots
Enough for 4 for a starter
1 bag frozen tater tots
1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
Truffle salt, as needed

1 cup Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
 If you are lucky (or unhealthy) enough to have a deep fryer at your house, drop the frozen tater tots for a few minutes until they are cooked throughout and crunchy on the outside. This is the preferred method for making these little morsels of crispy joy. Otherwise, continue to step 2
If you do not have a fryer, follow the producer’s instructions on the tater tot bag and bake until cooked and crispy
Immediately drizzle the tots with olive oil and sprinkle generously with the truffle salt
Place in a bowl, top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve with a generous stack of napkins