meez podcast

Jimmy Kunz of The Truffleist

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About this episode

#2. In this episode, our listeners are in for a treat as we host a special guest on the show. Introducing Jimmy Kunz, the son of the late, great, world-renowned Chef Gray Kunz. For those deeply rooted in the culinary world, Gray's influence is immeasurable, and he has been a significant mentor to many, including our host, Josh Sharkey.

Jimmy has successfully built a remarkable business around one of the world's most coveted ingredients – truffles.

Jimmy began making truffle butter as a holiday gift for friends and family before he was inspired to take his passion to the next level by officially becoming The Truffleist. Like a modern-day version of the street cart vendors who walked a young New York City, Jimmy started hand-delivering the product to his early customers, personally navigating the City streets by Vespa. Since launching the company with that flagship truffle butter in 2013, The Truffleist now offers a growing selection of distinct truffle products and hosts a wildly successful seasonal market: Cheesesteaks by The Truffleist. The Truffleist products are available at pop-up markets, specialty shops, online, and up and down the East Coast on the shelves of Whole Foods. They are also honored to be featured in the dishes of some of New York’s most visionary and celebrated chefs.

This season, the podcast delves into a theme close to the host's heart – the impact chefs and hospitality professionals have on their children. As a father of two, our host is intrigued by the dynamics of children entering the hospitality world. Jimmy shares his unique perspective of growing up with a culinary legend as a father.

In this episode, listeners will explore the intricacies of Jimmy's business, The Truffleist, and delve into his innovative cheesesteak concept. The conversation is sprinkled with anecdotes about Chef Kunz, including a surprise from Lespinasse that promises to captivate – watch the video to discover the details!

Where to find Jimmy Kunz:

Where to find The Truffleist:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

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What We Cover

(03:29) What it was like growing up with Chef Gray Kunz as Jimmy's dad

(07:39) Chef Kunz's high standard of cleanliness and how it translated to his home

(14:23) How The Truffleist Started

(22:58) Other Truffleist products and the importance of sourcing high quality ingredients

(26:13) Sourcing mushrooms for a CPG company

(28:41) The controversy behind truffle oil

(33:35) Holiday markets and truffle cheesesteaks

(41:28) The Truffleist in airports

(44:41) How Chef Kunz's idea of excellence has shaped Jimmy's idea of excellence in his company

(46:18) Digitizing Lespinasse Menu Repertoire Volume 1 and 2

Transcript

[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey:


You're listening to season two of The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, a culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, we're going to talk to high performers in the food business, everything from chefs to CEOs, technologists, writers, investors, and more about how they innovate and operate and how they consistently execute at a high level.


[00:00:23]


Day after day. And I would really love it if you could drop us a five star review. Anywhere that you listen to your podcast. That could be Apple, that could be Spotify, could be Google. I'm not picky. Anywhere works, but I really appreciate the support. And as always, I hope you enjoy the show.


[00:00:42] Josh Sharkey:


All right, my guest today is a special one. Jimmy Kunz. He's the son of the late, great, world renowned chef Gray Kunz. And Gray has meant so much to so many of us in the culinary world, and for me, has been one of my greatest mentors ever. And Jimmy and I have gotten to know each other a lot over the years, and he's one of the sweetest people that you'll ever meet.


[00:01:04]


And on top of that, he's built a really incredible business revolving around one of the most expensive ingredients in the world, truffles. It's been really incredible to see Jimmy grow as a human and as an entrepreneur, as a person over the years, and it is not easy following in the footsteps of someone like Chef Kunz.


[00:01:23]

And Jimmy has found a way to both honor his dad and also find his own path along the way with his business, Truffleist. It reminds me a lot of the conversation I had last season with chef Marc Forgione as he was talking about his relationship with his dad, Larry, uh, another incredible chef and the challenges that come along with, you know, stepping into the shoes of someone like that.


[00:01:44]


So a theme that I'm digging into more this season in the podcast is, well, the impact, you know, that we have as chefs, as restaurant professionals, uh, on our children. I have two kids and how we think about the idea of our children going into the hospitality world. Obviously there's a lot of great things about it and there's some challenges about it as well.


[00:02:04]


And it was really interesting to hear Jimmy's perspective of growing up with a father who was such an incredible chef, but of course was also working a lot, and how they found quality time and the ways that they navigated that. So, we of course talk about all things in Jimmy's business, the Truffleist, and he also has this really cool cheesesteak concept.


[00:02:25]


We talk a lot about his dad. It's a really cool surprise that he brought me from Lespinasse that we'll talk about, and if you watch the video, you'll see what it is. Really cool, and generally it was just great to catch up with him. So, as always, I hope you enjoy the episode, and the time, as much as I did.


[00:02:49] Josh Sharkey:


Jimmy Kunz, welcome to the show.


[00:02:54] Jimmy Kunz:


Josh Sharkey, it's uh, honor to be here, and great to catch up with you.


[00:02:59] Josh Sharkey:


The pleasure's mine. I don't remember, when's the last time we saw each other?


[00:03:01] Jimmy Kunz:


Too long ago, probably, uh, celebration of life. For dad.


[00:03:06] Josh Sharkey:


Yeah. Well, for those that don't know, I mean, your last name gives it away, but your dad was one of the most incredible chefs ever to live, Chef Gray Kunz.


[00:03:16]


And I wanted to start off, we're going to get into your background, I'll share it as well with people, but I don't think I ever asked you this before, but what was it like growing up with a dad like Chef Gray Kunz?


[00:03:29] Jimmy Kunz:


Well, pretty incredible because I love to eat, obviously, work focused mentality. The jokes on mom because she doesn't like to cook and married a chef. But as everyone knows in the industry, it's time consuming, but overall amazing because I got to cook with them at home. So. We had a great relationship as we progressed, but it was definitely challenging at times, and then also incredible because he wasn't around much. And then we definitely valued the time we had together when we did have the time together.


[00:04:06] Josh Sharkey:


Yeah, I mean, how often did you guys cook together?


[00:04:10] Jimmy Kunz:


Um, mainly upstate house, you know, they had a house in the Clinton corners. So that was really nice. I think it was mainly later in life. When his schedule freed up a little bit.


[00:04:22] Josh Sharkey:


So like post Lespinasse.


[00:04:23] Jimmy Kunz:


Post Lespinasse. Yeah, basically in that house upstate, which he designed that kitchen, which was just sick and beautiful with drawer refrigeration and going to farmer's markets together. And then him schooling me on bolognese. And I always remember his fascination for, you know, making his own curries or tomato sauce. So we would go to the farm and get the seconds and it was just like these big missions of packaging stuff up, which looking back at what I'm doing now and that whole thing of.

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