Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Crowning bid lands Thompson a bumper crop of white truffles

Jim Thompson, chairman of Crown Worldwide Holdings, played a starring role on Sunday evening in 'the most prestigious event in Hong Kong's culinary agenda' - at least that's what the promoters call it. They're talking about the Worldwide White Truffle of Alba Auction. Thomson stole the limelight with a Euro98,000 (HK$1.037 million) bid for two white truffles, together amounting to 1.25 kilograms. The way this works is that the auction takes place in the Hall of Masks at Grinzane Castle in the heart of the truffle region in Alba, northern Italy, with Hong Kong linked by video. Hong Kong generally has the winning wins the auctions, which started in 1999, with the proceeds going to charity - this year to the Changing Young Lives Foundation. The auction in Hong Kong took place at the Island Tang restaurant, where award-winning Italian chef Umberto Bombana together with Albert Au and Hiroyuki Saotome created a six-course menu that the various dignitaries and celebs munched through during the main event. For those unfamiliar with what many say is a culinary delight, a truffle is a fungus, and the white ones are particularly famed for their unique aroma, taste and supposed aphrodisiac qualities. They are rare and expensive, and the most prized of their kind are found in Alba. At one time, specially trained pigs were used to track them down; now dogs have been schooled in the art and are preferred since they are less inclined to eat them. Truffles are not to everyone's taste but Thompson says he loves them, which is just as well in view of his purchase. 'The most important thing is the money raised for charity,' he told Lai See.

Mugabe's not so Bona-fide stop

Hong Kong has apparently been graced by a visit from Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, according to the online news site New Zimbabwe. He is supposed to be on an official visit to China. However, the site suggests in its headline that there is more to the trip: 'The unofficial visit - Mugabe's China junket for Bona's graduation'. Bona is Mugabe's daughter and according to the site, she is graduating from the City University of Hong Kong today with a degree in accountancy. Both the 87-year-old Robert and his wife Grace are attending Bona's big day. The site also reports that while in Hong Kong, Mugabe will be meeting jewellers keen to import Zimbabwean diamonds after the country was recently cleared to export gems from the contested Marange area. While in Hong Kong, Bona has been staying in a HK$45 million pad in Tai Po, which she shares with her bodyguards. This would take Mugabe senior about 35 years to pay for on his official salary, assuming he did nothing else with his money.

Top-flight aviation opportunities

Those at a loss as to what career to pursue could do worse than consider the aviation industry. According to Orient Aviation magazine both Boeing and Airbus say the industry will need more than one million pilots and maintenance technicians by 2030. The plane makers say that 460,000 pilots and 650,000 maintenance engineers will be required. About half of the growth in the air travel will be driven by flights to, from and within Asia. And training organisations are expected to encounter difficulties keeping up with the pace of growth. Some 1,200 new pilot instructors will be needed every year for the next 20 years. The magazine reports that a shortage of pilots is already causing some Asian airlines to reduce offerings, grounding new services, and curbing growth plans. The shortages are apparently being felt the most in China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A moment of reflection

There were wry smiles in Paris, The Independent tells us, where an influential French economist observes in a recent book that 'in 2005, Eurostat [the European Union's statistics authority] was starting to harbour serious doubts about the Greeks' accounts and asked that it be given extra investigatory powers'. However, two countries went to some lengths to veto the request, apparently fearing they would be targeted too. Now France and Germany may well be regretting that move.

Diva gaga over GooGoo monster

We hear that Lady Gaga is displeased with Mind Candy, according to the Daily Telegraph. The gaming company has created a character called Lady GooGoo for its online game Moshi Monsters. Lady Gaga apparently feels that children would confuse Lady Gaga with Lady GooGoo. The pop diva may soon have to turn the attention of her legal team to the British supermarket Tesco, which has applied for the trademark GaGa for its range of baby products.