Hong Kong buyer forks out HK$750,000 for Italian white truffles at charity auction

Winning bidder identified as a regular patron of a Michelin-starred restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 10:38pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 11:24pm

A Hong Kong buyer forked out HK$750,000 for three coveted Italian white truffles, beating out other culinary experts for the rare delicacy in an annual global charity auction.

Little is known of the winning bidder, identified as Eugene Fung, as he snatched the prized fungus – also known as “white gold” – weighing 900 grams.

The auction comes after farmers in Italy experienced one of the worst seasons on record, with unfavourable weather affecting supply and driving mushroom prices to record levels.

The 18th edition of the World Alba White Truffle Auction took place at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour in northwest Italy. Alba, a small town in the vicinity, is recognised as the country’s white truffle capital.

Since 2005 the auction has been broadcast by satellite to bidders from Hong Kong. For the last seven years, famed Italian chef Umberto Bombana has been the host of the streamed event in the city.

A spokeswoman for his Michelin-starred restaurant, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, confirmed Fung is a regular patron, but refused to disclose further details, citing his wish to keep a low profile.

More than 70 patrons took part in the charity event on Sunday night, with a minimum donation of HK$8,800 per head.

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Two other lots in the auction – weighing 500 and 240 grams – were sold at HK$470,000 and HK$550,000 respectively, the restaurant spokeswoman said. She added that one of the buyers was Joseph Tsai, vice-chairman of Alibaba Group, which owns the Post.

A total of HK$4.28 million was raised from Hong Kong bidders, and the proceeds will be donated to local charity Mother’s Choice, which supports children without families and pregnant teenagers.

The upscale restaurant revealed the truffles would be served in private sessions as part of a menu designed by Bombana, hailed as the “king of white truffles”.

Declining supply of white truffles in recent years, coupled with a prolonged drought and the heatwaves this summer, have driven prices for the rare commodity to about 6,000 (HK$55,000) per kilogram.