Ian Purkayastha’s background is unusual for a powerful player in the world of fine dining. He shares his remarkable story and the crazy adventures along the way in Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground. The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian was 15 when his family left Houston for rural Arkansas. While he'd always loved cooking and eating well, it was his uncle, an avid outdoorsman, who taught him how to forage for wild mushrooms. When he first tasted a black truffle ravioli dish with foie gras sauce, he was instantly obsessed with the earthy, unusual truffle flavor.
Truffle Boy is part coming-of-age story, part elite restaurant tell-all, part travelogue. Readers journey with Ian from Manhattan to Oregon, from Serbia to Hungary. The characters met along this adventure are larger than life, ranging from shady businessmen to raving chefs to colorful gypsies. Despite setbacks and failures, Ian rebounds and achieves astonishing success at a young age in a ruthless world. He now owns Regalis, a specialty food company, which sells not only truffles but also caviar, wild mushrooms, Wagyu beef and other nearly unobtainable ingredients demanded by his Michelin-starred clients.
In a recent interview, Ian encouraged those who haven’t tried this delicacy to do so. “I would say if someone is wanting to try an ingredient that literally smells like nothing else you've ever had, then the truffle is the ingredient for them. Truffles have been, you know, lustful and highly regarded for centuries for having this intoxicating aroma and flavor. So I would definitely encourage interested, adventuresome eaters to seek out truffles.”
Meet Ian Purkayastha at the Towson Branch on April 9 at 2 p.m., where he will be in conversation with Doug Wetzel, the executive chef at Gertrude’s at the BMA. This program is just one of the many events scheduled for BC Reads: Eat Up!, BCPL’s month-long community discussion promoting reading and the arts.