On January 22 and 23, 2022, the City of Valence organized the 4th edition of Truffle, a planet to savor. Sponsor of the event, three-star chef Anne-Sophie Pic was inducted into the truffle brotherhood.

Anne-Sophie Pic, new black truffle ambassador

© David Raynal

Canceled last year due to Covid-19, the city of Valence in the Drôme resumed on January 22 and 23 with its Truffle Festival. For the occasion, she asked the three-star chef from Valence, Anne-Sophie Pic, to be the exceptional godmother of this event which brings together all the players in the sector. For the occasion, the child of the country whose first family restaurant, the Auberge du Pin, was founded in 1889 on the hills of Saint-Péray in Ardèche, was inducted as a member of the Confrérie de la Truffe Noire de la Drôme. Hills. Because the truffle is the object of all desires. It is the rough diamond of the Drôme, land of origin of 80% of French production. Whether under the marquee, in the bays of the local produce market or under the truffle growers' tents, the magic around this black jewel of the Drôme has once again operated, attracting thousands of visitors. " Oh ! Truffle, Tuber melanosporum, I pay homage to your virtues. I promise to serve you at all times, in all places by my words, my writings and my deeds”. It is in these terms that Anne-Sophie Pic took an oath and allegiance on January 22 to the brotherhood of the black diamond and gastronomy. “As you all know, I am very proud to be from Drôme. I think we really need to promote the Drôme truffle. In this respect, I very much admire the work that the truffle growers are doing to maintain production, since there was a fall and it is starting up again. It is also an ingredient that must be democratized, even if of course it remains a noble product. You have to use it sparingly but you also have to discover it. This is what I try to do every day in all my restaurants ” underlined at the end of her swearing in Anne-Sophie Pic in front of the public gathered in Valence.

Black truffle

©Eric Caillet

A little bit of history

Probably present since prehistoric times, the truffle is one of the oldest foods. The truffle was also very popular during antiquity. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans praised its aroma and sometimes lent it aphrodisiac and even medicinal properties. In the Middle Ages the use of the truffle seems to have been lost and it disappeared from culinary recipes. It then conveys a diabolical image and eating it means defying God! It was also denigrated because of its dark color and its underground mode of proliferation. The presence of "sorcerer's circles" or burnt areas around the trees aggravates this bad reputation. From 16e century, the truffle is gradually returning to the tables and Louis XIV definitely gives it back its letters of nobility. In the middle of the 19e century the proliferation of phylloxera in the vines pushes farmers to diversify. Thus in 1880 the French harvest reached its peak with 1320 tons! Today, almost all the production of black truffles is carried out in three countries: Spain (100 tons), France (50 tons) and Italy (20 tons). Historically established in Europe, the black truffle has crossed the oceans to develop on other continents. Thus, in the United States since the 80s, there have been a few truffle fields, particularly in California and North Carolina. On the other hand, in Australia and Chile, the plantations are more structured and have a better yield. On the Asian continent, China is not to be outdone and produces a species of truffle of its own: the Chinese truffle. At the beginning of its marketing in France, it was often sold illegally as a black truffle.

Anne-Sophie Pic, new black truffle ambassador

©Charlotte Terrier

Long line of cooks

Born in Valence in 1969, Anne-Sophie Pic comes from a long line of cooks, since her grandfather André Pic and her father Jacques Pic are multi-starred Michelin guides. But the first Pic cook was Sophie Pic, her great-grandmother, who opened the restaurant L'Auberge du Pin on the road to Saint-Péray in 1889 before moving to the current Maison Pic in Valence in 1934. However, the young woman did not imagine becoming a cook. It was not until the death of her father that she decided to succeed her brother in 1998 at the head of the family business, then in a bad patch. After hours spent behind the stove to find her culinary identity, in 2007 she obtained the consecration of the profession which named her "chef of the year". Married since 1993 to David Sinapian, whom she met on the benches of their business school, they undertook to create Pic Group together, soon raising the family business to the status of an international group. In 2008, the creation of his “Scook” cooking school in Valence marked the first stone of the building in a way. The adventure continues with the opening of the Anne-Sophie Pic restaurant at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne in 2009 (two Michelin stars), then the Fine Grocery in Valence in 2010 and finally the restaurant La Dame de Pic in Paris. (Michelin star in 2013). Development continued with the openings of the Daily Pic, Anne-Sophie Pic's French-style fast food restaurant in Valence in 2014 and the André restaurant in 2016.

Truffle rolls with foie gras

Truffle pebbles with foie gras – ©Anne-Sophie Pic

Anne-Sophie Pic, the truffle heritage

The following year saw the opening of the second La Dame de Pic restaurant in London (two Michelin stars) and then in Singapore in 2019 in the historic Raffles hotel. The launch of its fourth Dame de Pic at the Four Season Hotel Megève, announced in December 2020, has finally been postponed to June 11, 2021. “This year we are doing work at Maison Pic in order to start offering our cocktail bar, the Rose bar, in April and outdoors. To do this, we worked with a mixologist, Mike, who is Italian-Armenian. With the people who are in sommellerie we also think a lot about non-alcoholic pairings, it is not against alcohol, but it allows us to propose new proposals » She says.

Truffle burger

Always in search of new ideas, the context of the Covid-19 pandemic leads him to innovate. This is how it launched the Pic & GO take-out catering offer, which offers menus delivered throughout France and the launch of a food truck in Valence by refurbishing an old Citroën type H van. On the menu, the famous truffle burger from the PicUp Truck that suddenly makes you want to reconnect with the great standards of Uncle Sam's cuisine.

Truffle burger

© David Raynal

“For four generations, my family has been cooking truffles. My grandfather created the truffle slipper in the 30s, which he then called the Grignan pearl slipper, as truffles were then called in the region. The truffle is still an exceptional product today. And in my father's slipper, there was a whole one. She perfumed the puff pastry while cooking. It is a dish that was then taken up in French gastronomy by many other chefs. It may be a coincidence with my induction into the brotherhood of truffles, but I just wanted to rework this dish this year » explains Anne-Sophie Pic.

100% truffle menu

Recently, the chef also concocted a 100% truffle menu, delivered by the La Poste Chronofresh service throughout France, via its Pic & Go takeaway offer. A feat and a treat made up of 4 steps. Starter Foie gras pebbles, lacquered with white chocolate meadowsweet, melting heart with black melanosporum truffle. For the main course, the modern stuffed cabbage, scallops and melanosporum black truffle, chamomile sauce, walnuts and Jerez wine. For dessert, the chocolate tartlet, melting ganache and salted caramel with melanosporum truffle, tip of cazette. All for €85 per person. “The truffle is really a plural product that goes with many ingredients if tempted that one is in search of balance. It goes very well with spices, with root vegetables, black garlic from the Drôme, fruits such as prunes, fish or meat » finally recalls the virtuoso cook. Owner of the Maison Pic gourmet restaurant in Valence, Anne-Sophie Pic is currently the only French woman to hold three stars in the Michelin Guide since 2007. Today she has 8 Michelin stars for her restaurants, which makes her the woman chef the most starred in the world.

David Raynal