DIARY: Joe Pytka's real picky when it comes to food for his eaterie Bastide

In times of recession, parting with $35,000 for a mushroom seems unnecessarily flamboyant. But when adland's biggest truffle hunter turns out to be Joe Pytka, it all starts to make a bit more sense.

Pytka, you'll know, is the famously gruff director credited with shattering the egos and damaging the psyches of dozens of production assistants over the years. He's also a bit of a foodie and has taken a stake in the Southern Californian gastrodome Bastide.

Pytka evidently takes his status as a quality restaurateur as seriously as that of leading director. Not wanting to offer up anything but the best, Pytka went in search of a top-grade truffle.

This lengthy quest eventually led him to a suitable specimen.

It was at a charity auction. And it was big - the biggest that one truffle aficionado had seen in 17 years, weighing in at 2.2lbs, and of the rare white variety hunted by specially trained dogs in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, no less. Pytka bid against fellow restauranteur Tony May and the stakes got so high that he ended up pledging the most money ever paid for a mushroom.

Still, its priceless flesh should be just what Bastide needs to take off. Its grand opening was delayed a year - in part owing to planning permission hoops, but also due to Pytka's relentless perfectionism.


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