Chefs Jason McKinney and Tyler Vorce and Jason’s wife, Sarah, became passionate about truffles while working at The French Laundry in the heart of Napa Valley, deemed the best restaurant in the world by many. They marveled at how a dish made with truffles and a few simple ingredients created an indelible dining experience for their guests.
Truffles with their earthy, piquant flavor and intense aroma have been delighting people for thousands of years, ever since the Ancient Egyptians treasured them a gift from the gods. (Except for the Middle Ages when they were condemned as evil.) With the Renaissance came the rebirth of the allure of truffles that continues today.
Mistakenly referred to as a kind of mushroom, truffles are instead the fruit of specific fungi that grow underground intertwined with tree roots. They are a rare delicacy because they only grow a few months each year, they can only be found by specially trained truffle-sniffing dogs, and they cannot be cultivated.
When Jason, Tyler and Sarah discovered that truffles were being sold on the black market, counterfeited, stolen, the flavor chemically reproduced, they founded Truffle Shuffle and resolved to sell only the finest fresh, honest truffles, those that have been consciously sourced and traced. They were doing well when the pandemic hit, and there they were trying to figure out what to do with their stock of 20 pounds of truffles worth $20,000 as the restaurants they served closed down.
Their first pivot was to establish a meal kit service. They soon were shipping 700 two-person meals every week. As a bonus, they were able to hire 11 chef who had lost their jobs to COVID. Their second pivot was “Dinner with Truffle Shuffle,” virtual cooking classes.
Dinner with Truffle Shuffle
The pandemic kept people at home, and many enjoyed getting in touch with their inner culinary artist—an audience on Zoom for the award-winning chefs and an untapped market for their truffles. Their classes, that included such dishes as truffle mac and cheese and truffle lobster rolls, attracted professional chefs, amateurs and newcomers to the kitchen. Surprisingly, Zoom offered an intimate setting and increased accessibility for both chefs and students. Jason and Tyler feel that, pandemic or no pandemic, the best way for people to learn new dishes is right there in the comfort of their own homes.
They are now trying a cooking class/talk show format. Students are entertained while waiting for the butter to clarify or water to boil. In February, Snoop Dogg, a master pasta roller, judged a pasta rolling competition for a Wild Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo class. The Zoom class individually demonstrated their rolling skills, and Snoop picked the winner and awarded her or him a pound of fresh truffles and incredible bragging rights!
Truffle Shuffle has now grown to a 46-person business operating out of its new Oakland headquarters with four studio kitchens for live cooking classes and facilities that can pump out 10,000 meal kits a week. Their products are sold in Whole Foods, on Amazon and on their website.
Truffle Shuffle Small Batch Products
- Balinese Truffle Salt is a mixture of high-quality salt sourced from a single-family farm in Bali and summer truffles from France dried at peak ripeness.
- Brown Butter Truffle Honey is made with wildflower bee honey from Napa and Sonoma produced with sustainable beekeeping methods; black truffles dog-harvested in Oregon; brown butter; and a hint of fleur de sel (“flower of salt”), a rare and expensive form of sea salt harvested in France.
- Black Truffle Carpaccio is thinly sliced black summer truffles preserved in extra virgin olive oil at the peak of their flavor and aroma. The life of the truffles is extended by ±18 months, allowing you to enjoy them at any time of year.
- Black Truffle Kettle Corn is a sweet, savory, salty snack made with Balinese Truffle Salt, savory white cheddar cheese and heirloom kettle corn. It is a umami flavor explosion for when you want snazzy popcorn with a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Truffle Shuffle Gives Back
In addition to providing jobs for workers affected by the stalled hospitality industry, Truffle Shuffle:
- Supports family farms by paying fair, above-market rates.
- Prepares and donates a meal to a frontline healthcare worker for each cooking kit sold and for each cooking class entry sold.
- Partners with the Alameda (CA) Food Bank.
- Participates in “1% for the Planet,” an organization that supports environmental nonprofits around the world.