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Chez Bruno – The Art of Truffles

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 “For me there are no great chefs.  The real greatness of a chef can only lie on his simplicity, his humility. He must never forget that the produce is the basis, he must never forget that if he doesn’t use quality produce, the result of his cooking cannot be quality. Take a frozen lobster and give it to Alain Ducasse or to any other great chef and that won’t work!  But take a wolffish caught in the Mediterranean, in Ajaccio or St Tropez, give it to someone who loves his work and he’ll season it and cook it as it should be, and that added to good produces will turn out food of high quality.“ – Chef Clément Bruno

Watch the video!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCPYG5BRICQ&w=560&h=315]

Chez Bruno – Serving 4000 kilos of truffles per year

Chez Bruno is a Michelin one-star truffle specialist restaurant located just outside of Lorgues, Provence, France. Restaurant Chez Bruno holds the record for serving the largest amount of truffles per year in the world, 4000 kilos (4 tons) to its 36,000 yearly guests.
One of the first questions that comes to mind is: Where do they get all of those truffles from? According to Chef Clément Bruno, they come from the Haut Var, the local region around the restaurant.  They come from the Drôme, Carpentras, and also through traders and truffle growers who sell them to Chez Bruno. The truffles also come from Italy.  The Brunos have a large supplier in Umbria and another in the town of Norcia, as well as in Alba, the home of the world famous Alba Truffle.

 

Chez Bruno shifted my truffle paradigm!

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Chez Bruno Garden Room

Being a gourmand at an early age is not always the easiest of life styles to manage, even as an adult.  I loved and craved the experience of eating great food and drinking lovely wines with friends and family.  In my search for the opportunity to taste everything that appeals to the senses, I came across the truffle.  My first reaction was that the truffle was an ugly, earthy and bulbous black growth that pigs find in the ground.  And it was terribly expensive to boot!  Early experiences with truffle eating involved contact with overpriced odd tasting food containing truffle oils and sometimes embedded with the most minuscule of crushed truffles.  This garnered my belief that the truffle was just a hype food category that rich people could brag about eating to their friends.  This opinion caused me to shy away from any and all truffle dishes on the menu of multiple French and Italian restaurants, including Chez Bruno.  Restaurant Chez Bruno shifted my paradigm!

To provide a little history, my wife and I had a house in the popular region of France called the Provence, just outside of  the medieval village of Les Arcs, 30 minutes from the Mediterranean and just a 10-minute drive from restaurant Chez Bruno in Lorgues.  Many people had recommended Chez Bruno to us and every time we drove by we noted that one day we will actually eat there.
The restaurant had an international reputation and one could see the occasional helicopter landing near the property, ferrying eager Côte d’Azur residents and visitors to their pricy lunches. Probably due to the quantity of the truffles served and the quality of the cooking or Chef Clément Bruno’s outgoing personality, the operation had received a good amount of past media attention, including videos by French television stations FR3, TV5 and a 2007 feature on CNN.

Well last fall, while we were in the process of selling our house, we finally decided to go to meet the folks at Chez Bruno and make a reservation for dinner.  My wife and I had spent the last two years traveling around Europe and South America creating videos and stories about wine, food, tourism and lifestyle.

We were strolling through the busy French market in Lorgues at lunchtime and Chez Bruno was just a short drive from there, so we decided to see if they might be interested in an article and video about them.  The paradigm shift was just about to happen. Before our meeting with the famous Chef Bruno

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Restaurant manager Samuel Bruno

himself, we were invited to have lunch on the terrace by one of his two sons Samuel, who happened to be the manager of the restaurant.  His other son Benjamin serves as Chez Bruno’s top chef.
Beginning with my first taste of the appetizer,  a foie gras with truffles and port sauce, my mouth exploded with flavor that left  my pallet feeling warm, fuzzy and very content.  This oral happiness then spread  to my to brain and all of a sudden the hustle and bustle of the market faded into a quiet pleasure of lunching on the lovely, shaded terrace at Chez Bruno. The location was sophisticated and elegant, but made my wife and I feel peaceful and very comfortable. The service was friendly and impeccable, a little like dining with the angels. The foie gras was followed by a delicious potatoes with truffles, then lamb shoulder with truffles (milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees), oven cooked for 5 hours, and accompanied by small mushrooms. Lunch finished with Chef Clément Bruno’s addictively mouthwatering invention, Italian vanilla truffle ice-cream. Sipping on a local Rosé wine complimented the experience and it just felt heavenly.

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Lamb shoulder (milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees) with small mushrooms

 

So this was what truffles were supposed to taste like!  We were hooked.

Chez Bruno serves generous portions in a comfortable, relaxed and welcoming, outdoor or indoor atmosphere.  Although pricy for most, you do get your money’s worth for the food here.  The grounds are filled with artworks that tantalize the senses. The service is friendly and impeccable. They serve a large variety of local wines and use fresh, local produce.  Guests are always welcome to visit the kitchen during their stay at the restaurant, including the possibility to dine at a small two-person table located in the kitchen.

The secret to their success with truffles includes using simple carriers for the truffle.  When you pay a good deal for the truffle, you want to be able to really taste it and not be distracted by a lot of other flavors.

I still find myself day-dreaming about the surprising taste of the pre-desert; an Italian vanilla truffle ice cream: rich, complex, creamy, and yummy to the extreme.   The main desserts are spectacular to the eye and to the palate.

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Duo chocolate with walnut sauce & praline ice cream

 

Restaurant Chez Bruno

Chez Bruno is truly a family establishment.  Sons Benjamin, the Chef and Samuel, the restaurant manager have taken the helm to the great delight of their father Chef Clément, who spent a better part of his life making Chez Bruno a unique success.

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Chez Bruno’s Founder & Chef Clément Bruno

“I have two sons: I explained to both of them (they have worked their way up) that this house where they were born, where they grew up and the grass where they used to play ball and where they rode their bicycles and motorcycles is here.”

Michelin Star Chef Benjamin Bruno

Michelin Star Chef Benjamin Bruno

“I am 66 now and  I am happy to see that Benjamin does fantastic work in the kitchen; that he has not forgotten the lessons I gave him, that he hasn’t forgotten what he had learned when an apprentice with other cooks-Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée or with my former chef, who had been a cook at Ducasse’s or with Roger Jalou, who used to be Bocuse’s chef and with me, with all modesty, who taught him and who still directs him today. I keep reminding him: ”be careful, stick to the line we’ve followed, keep its simplicity, we have something unique; here you can eat rabbit with gnocchi like the ones in Italy; here the cuisine is different and you can eat things that are so simple and so good that people travel from far to come and visit us.”

 

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

On the terrace at Chez Bruno

“If we had to say what would be the perfect meal at Bruno’s, I would have to mention our classic dishes:  potatoes with truffles, truffles en feuilleté (truffles in puff pastry). I would start with “Oeuf Albufera” (poached eggs with Albufera sauce) with truffles of course, and a foie gras and port sauce.  I would then serve the “Truffes en feuilleté” (truffles in puff pastry) and “Lardo di Colonnata (organic lard)– with foie gras filled with truffle and a Bordelaise aux truffles (steak with truffles).  I would then serve potatoes with truffle and I would end up with lamb shoulder (milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees) – oven cooked for 5 hours, accompanied by small mushrooms – fresh, or girolles, or cepes or lactaires mushrooms– and I would have a good dessert made by our pastry chef.”  – Chef Clément Bruno

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Truffle slicer with summer truffle

About truffles

The first mention of truffles appears in the inscriptions of the neo-Sumerians regarding their Amorite enemy’s eating habits (Third Dynasty of Ur, 20th century BC)[22] and later in writings of Theophrastus in the fourth century BC. In classical times, their origins were a mystery that challenged many; Plutarch and others thought them to be the result of lightning, warmth and water in the soil, while Juvenal thought thunder and rain to be instrumental in their origin. Cicero deemed them children of the earth, while Dioscorides thought they were tuberous roots.[21]

Types of truffles
White truffle
Black truffle
Summer or burgundy truffle
Other species
Truffle-like species

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truffle#Types
The Provencal name for the truffle is “rabasse”. A more popular synonyms is “black diamond”. In fact, truffles come in black and white, and in numerous variants of each of the two colors.
The truffle is a type of subterranean mushroom (tuber melanosporum), growing around the roots of plants, mainly oak trees and sometimes lavender or thyme. A typical truffle farm (truffière) today is a plantation of oak trees, either hidden in the wilderness or well fenced and guarded during the winter.
Average sized truffles generally weight between 30 and 60 grams. In the Alpes-Maritimes, truffle hunter Patrick [see “Truffle Finders”] once found a truffle that weighed in at 364 grams. http://www.beyond.fr/themes/truffles.html

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Karine Magnin, co-owner, Les truffières de Crépey, Burgundy, France.

Truffle cultivation

Truffles can be cultivated. As early as 1808, there were successful attempts to cultivate truffles, known in French as trufficulture. People had long observed that truffles were growing among the roots of certain trees, and in 1808, Joseph Talon, from Apt (département of Vaucluse) in southern France, had the idea to sow some acorns collected at the foot of oak trees known to host truffles in their root system.

It takes about 40 years for a wild oak tree to grow to a point where truffles will be created. You can, however, obtain specially treated young trees that will grow to truffle-maturity in about 10 years. In the larger truffle markets you’ll find professional truffle-tree vendors that can provide you with the young trees and with expert advise about planting and maintaining them. http://www.beyond.fr/themes/truffles.html

Karine and Cyrille Magnin (Karine is our truffle hunter in the film) are the owners of Les truffières de Crépey, located in the prestigious Côte des Vins, in the village of Crépey, Burgundy, France.

If you are interested in getting started in the truffle growing business you will need some land and a good dose of patience.

“In order to start a plantation you need to buy plants that are Mycorrhizas plants that are one year old and were grown in truffle in soil containing truffles. You line them up and plant them every 2 to 3 meters and next you plant and water. The plants need to be watered regularly during the first couple of summers. After that no particular care is needed, other than removing weeds around the plants, either by machine or by hand. We have chosen to let the grass grow around the trees so the freshness is maintained around the plants. Next, once the plants have grown large, you need to prune them, just like a vine, in order to have access below the trees, and you make a nice arch. But you don’t need any particular care, it has to be as natural as possible; no pesticides or other agents. Anything organic is ok. We let nature take its course, and it’s now been 15 years since we planted everything, and we can now start to harvest.” – Karine Magnin

Truffle hunting

“My passion about truffles developed because I love to share this moment with the dogs as well as being in nature. Training the dogs is very interesting and I love to be in touch with the land.”

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Truffle hunter Karine Magnin

Almost any type of dog can be a truffle hunter because of their great sense of smell. The very best truffle dogs are the one’s that “do not hunt.” Poodles and similar breeds are very good. There is an Italian dog, the Lagotto romagnolo that has been specifically bred for truffle hunting. They do it from birth. However, even dogs from the pound can be very good as long as they are properly trained and get along very well with their owner.

“In order to train a dog to find truffles you need to teach it that it’s a game, you need to motivate it and reward it after each effort. In the beginning you need it to find something interesting in the ground, like gruyère (cheese), something edible in order to enhance its sense of smell. Later on you replace the indulgence with a truffle and progressively teach them every day.  The training may take anywhere from a couple of days until numerous months. The dog loves the relationship with his master. And above all, the dog does not hunt. One of the conditions is that the dog doesn’t hunt. It needs to stay close to its master and needs to listen very carefully. It wants to please him.” – Karine Magnin

 


 

Meeting small crew documentary-style lighting challenges with F&V Z180s bi-color LED’s

As always, one of our many production challenges was to attempt to cover multiple events per day with a crew of two persons, while maintaining high creative and technical standards.
In our last article about our travel requirements and the use of LED lighting for shooting documentary style with a two-person crew, we wrote: “On our next Burgundy shoot, we plan on trying out the F&V Z180s Bi-color LED system, which can be used as a single camera-mounted light or you can link up 4 lights together to approximate the size of the 1×1, and runs on lighter Sony NPF or 6X AA batteries, as well as AC power.” See original article on IMPress Magazine: Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine http://ipaimpress.com/burgundy-people-with-a-passion-for-wine/

Well, we got our chance during the fall of last year shooting at Michelin-starred truffle specialist restaurant Chez Bruno in Lorgues, Provence, France as well as returning to Burgundy, France for shooting the November wine auction activities.

Felloni 1X1-front & back

Felloni 1X1-front & back

In addition to Z180s, we again used the Felloni 1×1, and a Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light, which is quite compact and which also offers variable color temperature and intensity controls. As I wrote before, I have come to depend on this light as my main on-camera light.  It’s lightweight and easy to use, but the AA batteries do not last very long.
We ended up testing (6) Z180s Bi-color LEDs in various configurations.  We

F&V Z180s Bi-color LED

F&V Z180s Bi-color LED

wanted to see if 6 of these compact lights could replace the Felloni 1×1, which was not possible to take along when we needed to minimize the number of bags and weight when travelling by air.
Information on the Felloni 1×1 and Z180S from Dedo Weigert Film

 

Our First Impressions

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman. All Rights Reserved.

Videographer Rudi Goldman

 

The lights are relatively light weight, although slightly larger than our Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light.  They also have a wider throw and are a little brighter than the chroma. Another advantage over both the Felloni 1×1 and the Litepanels Chroma is the flexibility of using the smaller format Sony NP-F infoLITHIUM batteries, in addition to AA batteries or AC power cord (not supplied).

 

 

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

LowePro Nova 190 AW camera bag with 6 Z180s lights and frame unit.

I was able to fit the 6 lights and a Sony charger into a LowePro Nova 190 AW camera bag. When traveling by air, this offered a lot of light and variety in a very small package.  With the exception of a different quality of light and ease of use, we were able to replace the Felloni 1×1 with the 4-light configuration. On many interview setups, these 6 lights provided us with adequate key, back, fill, background and kicker lights. I do miss the lack of an on-off switch on the units.  The Sony batteries keep the lights burning for a very long time, so once we had the lighting levels set, we tended to leave them on.  It’s also advisable to use the milk colored filters on the units.  The effect on the quality of the light is minimal, but the subjects are more comfortable with them on the lights.
Z180z Interlocking Unit Design

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

F&V Z180s 4-light configuration with frame & Manfrotto 492-LCD Micro ball head

 

The Z180s Bi-color LEDs have the super advantage of being able to be used in a variety of configurations, on or off lighting stands. We used them in all the possible combinations:  as a single light, as 2-light units (side by side or one on top of the other), and most excitingly the 4-light configuration.  In the 2-light or 4-light configuration, one of the units takes control of the others, so you can adjust the intensity and/or color temperature of the entire combo unit from one set of controls.
We discovered that the 4 lights disconnected from each other with the least amount of effort, when the 4-light was built in two modules, by first connecting two units together, one on top of the other and then connecting the two verticals side by side to form the 4-light.  If you inadvertently  build the two units horizontally and then connect them, you will have a hard time getting the proper grip to slide the units apart.  Be forewarned!

Mounting the 4-light unit requires the purchase of a special metal attachment bar (see photos above) and and a more heavy duty ball joint swivel than what the manufacturer provides with each Z180s light. We used the Manfrotto 492-LCD Micro ball head attached to a cold shoe mount on a lighting stand.

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Hand-held F&V Z180s 4-light configuration

One of the most effective and portable use of the 2 and 4-light units was hand-held in large crowds or tight places as a side-light.  I asked my crew to always try to hold the light as to illuminate  the subjects from a 90 degree angle to the camera lens. In dark rooms this gave a very pleasing rim light and at times a dramatic back light rim effect.  I used the Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light to provide front fill light when necessary.

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

F&V Z180s used in Burgundy wine cellar

 

 

There were times that we effectively used one or two Z180s to light from below the subject.

 

 

 

 

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Barrel tasting in Burgundy, France

 

The great advantages of utilizing the Z180s Bi-color LEDs in the 4-light configuration hand-held, did not come without some small issues. The most irritating of which was that while hand-carrying the unit in the off position,  if my crew member inadvertently touched any of the eight lighting controls on the back of the 4-light, it would loose the ability to maintain sync.  To reset synchronicity, the units needed to be individually turned off and then back on again.  Another issue, which is easily resolved, is the lack of proper graphic markings on the light level and color temperature dials.

Copyright ©2014 Rudi Goldman.  All Rights Reserved.

Hand-held F&V Z180s 2-light configuration

 

All in all, I am quite happy with the units and very much appreciate the flexibility and increased quality of lighting our subjects the multiple Z180s lights provide to our 2-person crew productions.
Information on the Felloni 1×1 and Z180S from Dedo Weigert Film

 

 

 

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