The story of a young Ian Purkayastha making it big in the specialty foods niche is intriguing.
When I first heard of a 24-year-old, Ian Purkayastha, nicknamed Truffle Boy, I sat up and took note. To make a mark in one of the busiest places on the planet, New York City, is challenging. Consider that he does business among the most highly rated chefs in the world known for their refined tastes and of course, I was curious to know the secret of the success of Ian Purkayastha. After all, who doesn’t want to follow suit? -- I am sure you would! Let’s take an in-depth look and unravel the success story that is Ian Purkayastha.
Ian Purkayastha - destined for food greatness.
As a young 15-year-old boy Ian's eyes would light up at the mention of food. Not just eating but the entire process of procuring, creating, and presenting food excited him. One day on a whim he acquired one-kilo of truffles for his consumption while staying in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
When he saw they were too much for his personal use, he had a light bulb moment. Why not sell to the high-end restaurants around him? With his parent's support, the wide-eyed teenager sold his first few truffles and made a profit.
His love for truffles extended beyond the first sale. He went on to order bulk quantities and sell them to restaurants. Putting in hours behind the scene and cold calling made Ian Purkayastha a decent profit from selling imported high-quality truffles.
One of the many reasons for his foray as a successful entrepreneur is the simple act of finding the right quality for his products. By appealing to refined tastes and only sourcing the highest quality truffles, Ian Purkayastha built a reputation that precedes him.
Regalis Foods is a product of this history and started its journey when Ian Purkayastha picked up the first truffle. His focus from truffles remained intact while he diversified the specialty ingredients. We'll examine his ability to generate success from this business model.
What Exactly are Truffles?
Truffles, also known as the 'king of mushrooms,' are an alluring, mystical, and elusive ingredient commonly found in-demand at high-end restaurants. Grown underground and comprised of 98% water, truffles only sustain a seven-day shelf life. Every day truffles go unused, they evaporate. Although frequently eaten as a part of a five-star meal, truffles are rare and difficult to find, and thus expensive.
During truffle season, imports cost about $200,000 per week. A small amount could fetch anywhere from 5-15000x in profit. In Paris, the price goes up to hundreds of dollars. White trifles from Italy can cost three times as much.
Often referred to as aphrodisiacs, truffles are the most expensive food in the world. The market is under siege because of scarcity. Affinity to European red soil and summers requires the perfect environment to grow its natural elements. Being an underground fungus, it cannot be sowed and grown.
Reasons Ian Purkayastha Made it Big With Truffles
Ian Purkayastha definitely wove a different path than most of us take. Even if truffles aren't your forte or interest, there are valuable lessons that can be gleaned from Ian's experience. Here are four major reasons Ian Purkayastha has been so successful.
1. Trading in a close-knit community.
Unlike other ingredients, truffles do not grow quickly. In fact, they require proper soil and rain to flourish. Hence it is well guarded, and its business is shrouded in secrecy. Ian has spent considerable time learning the ins and out of the industry over the last nine years. He even learned a harsh lesson when he got mugged during a truffle sale. He is now wise enough to know the good from the bad.
2. Working in a niche industry.
Truffle’s aroma is tantalizing and makes the finest and luxurious people travel the world to experience the best money can buy. However, even though the industry is close-knit, it can be difficult to know if it’s the real deal or a manufactured lesser quality truffle. With his vast experience across the industry, Ian knows how to separate the high-quality truffles from low-quality ones.
3. Deep Passion & Knowledge
You’ll agree that a piece of superficial knowledge can’t take a person far enough. The continuous learning across different truffles worldwide has helped Ian Purkayastha. It has also given him the ability to judge a truffle the moment he sees it. From the exterior, the aroma and irresistible, alluring taste enables Ian to identify the best quality specialty ingredients. Mostly, his attention to detail and consistent quality control has attracted many hardcore truffle lovers as well as experimental food lovers to try his wide range of products.
4. Extensive Networking.
Fleeting success does not stop Ian Purkayastha from exploring how others trade in truffle. Instead, from Italy, France, and the U.S., Ian continually emphasizes learning different variants, their types, and what separates one from the other. From the first truffle association with his uncle to the deep partnerships he has forged, Ian’s $3 million truffle business is booming.
Ian Purkayastha and the Specialty Ingredients of Regalis Foods
Ian's passion for food is evident in the way he adores the beauty of truffles. In turn, it has led him to establish a million dollar company, Regalis Foods. It supplies some of the most scarce, exotic, and unusual foods to nearly 90% of Michelin-star restaurants in New York. As of 2014 Ian had made $900,000 a year in truffle sales and entered the millionaires club.
Regalis Foods is the premium vendor for specialty ingredients like fresh truffles, caviar, mushrooms, oils,vinegar, specialty meats, seafood, exotic greens, fruits, and nuts.
Even though truffles feature a hard exterior and soft interior, the unforgettable aroma beckons. Known as the underground mushroom, it grows in red soil during summers. Imported from Italy and France, the rare ingredient is sought by Michelin-stars restaurants worldwide. Trained dogs and pigs are used to search this underground fungus.
Ian has been able to remove the veil of secrecy that has hounded truffles for years and is going mainstream to reach out to millions of truffle lovers. Through this, he not only promotes his Regalis truffle business, but at approximately $3,600 a pound engages in selling high quality European white truffles and other truffles too.
Caviar is a delicacy served as a garnish or spread. It consists of salt-cured roe from wild sturgeon. Depending on its origin, caviar from different countries uses roe from whitefish, carp, salmon or trout.
Ian Purkayastha imports and supplies caviar. Among these are Russian Golden Osetra and Imperial Golden Osetra. Tie-ups with other vendors also feature as part of his efforts to provide the best quality caviar.
With the eye-catching shape and new methods to grow mushrooms on sawdust, mushrooms are the darlings of chefs around the world. Yet in recent times, you are spoiled for choice with varieties like shiitake, nameko, clamshell mushroom, and black poplar mushrooms.
Ian Purkayastha and Regalis Foods indulge in rare varieties of mushroom. Some are wild mushrooms from Europe, also known as ovoli, matsutake, black trumpets, mountain porcini, blonde morels and many more.
4. Oil & Vinegar
Oils and vinegar are the sources of all foods. Most oils come with the preferred packaging and instructions and you would likely agree that certain foods are perfected with the proper cooking oil.
However, not all are made at the optimum point to retrieve the oil. Take the example of olive oil. Olive oil prepared without harvesting the olives at the right time can take away the robust taste that blends with the oil.
Some of the olive oils and vinegar prepared by Ian Purkayastha are O-MED Yuzu Finishing EVOO (can work well in place of traditional citrus), O-MED Picual Finishing EVOO (with flavors of the tomato plant and green almond sprinkled with aromatic herbs). These can be used over meat dishes, tomato salads, soups, and more.
5. Specialty Meats
Imagine biting into the juiciest meat. Regalis Foods provides some of the best specialty meats like Balfego, bluefin tuna, Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham, Pluma Iberico de Bellota, and Vermont Grown Coturnix Quail.
Indeed, a meat lover’s paradise, Ian Purkayastha elevated the status of available meat by importing the best quality meat under one roof.
Seafood lovers revel in the exotic spread of Balfego Atlantic Tuna, Balfego Tuna Pure Loin, Akami, Live Spot Prawns, Maine Pink Shrimp, and Spanish Octopus by Ian Purkayastha. This unique assortment makes it easy to choose a lip-smacking, great-tasting seafood dish.
Ian’s Instagram feed is filled with analysis of the seafood he sources and why they make the cut in his collection. In fact, recently, a Red Rock Crab from Santa Barbara caught his attention which is similar to the European brown crab but for half of its price.
7. Exotic Greens
Greens don’t often evoke a pleasant feeling. But this is different. Not because it’s exotic, but rather because it adds value to your life. Exotic greens like Ice Plant-Ficiode Glacial and Garlic Mustard are used as garnish to flavor salads and give the perfect taste to meals.
These and many more exotic greens are widely requested in restaurants for the unique aroma and flavor that tips the scales in their favor when it comes to competition. Experiment with some of these greens and create your own signature dish.
8. Exotic Fruits & Nuts
Lavish praise isn’t enough for the vast assortment of fruits in the basket of Ian Purkayastha’s. Sourced from the best places in the world, you can enjoy anything from juicy mangoes to snow rabbit strawberry. Or perhaps you'd like to try the prickly pitaya cactus fruit -- a sweet cross between a kiwi and passion fruit. Either way, a unique blend of taste, high nutritional value, and health benefits make exotic fruits a must-have in your grocery list.
The Strategy of Ian Purkayastha:
Even with the highest quality products, Ian Purkayastha could not be successful on inventory alone. The specialty food industry is closed and sells products discretely. In turn, this creates the perception of an exotic, yet scarce, nature. It creates an aura around the products. He recognizes this and uses this perception to his advantage.
Ian has realized the untapped potential that lies in reaching out to the masses rather than keeping his ingredients to an elite lot. His expansion and business growth can be attributed to a great marketing strategy comprise of the following:
1. Social Media
Ian Purkayastha showcases these premium products to people on his social media platforms. It informs, educates, and entertains food lovers across the world at a fraction of any advertising cost required to promote premium products. In turn, it piques interest, leads to inquiries and sales from his 11K Instagram followers. He has leveraged his social media account in a way that has continuous momentum.
2. Food Photography
Ian’s transparency and eagerness to share his products with people is evident on his Instagram account. His food photography focuses only on the product rather than engaging in soft or hard sells. The informative interaction makes people want to learn more about expensive luxurious ingredients and premium foods. Speaking about it on social media has given him the platform to inform, educate, and engage at a personal level.
Ian Purkayastha operates in the specialty industry where it’s difficult to know what’s genuine. That's one of the reasons he provides high-quality specialty products. These and many more strategies have been presented in his memoir, Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground. Released in February 2017, this book takes you on the journey of Ian Purkayastha from a novice to an experienced truffle king.
Ian Purkayastha, truffle king, suggests that it is not age, but rather passion and willingness to chase your dreams that makes them a reality.
Ian Purkayastha’s story is compelling and explains how a passion for truffles made Ian chase his dreams even at the cost of letting-go his school education. We hope you enjoyed reading a bit of Ian Purkayastha’s life and hope it inspires you to try some exotic foods this summer!
Do share your thoughts in the comments about Ian Purkayastha's success. Share this with your family and friends for an inspiring read!
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