The Truffle Master

How Diane Roederer redefined Houston’s fine dining scene.

By Geneva Diaz March 13, 2023 Published in the March 2023 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Image: raz latif

In 2014, Diane Roederer went on her first truffle hunt, a week-long adventure on a ranch in the mountains south of Barcelona. On her excursion, she met the owner. Sensing there was something about her, he asked her if she wanted to work with him, importing truffles to America. To Roederer’s own surprise, she answered yes. And so, with a cooler containing thousands of dollars worth of black truffles, she packed up, returned to Houston, and began going door-to-door to all the city’s fine dining restaurants selling truffles. 

“I had a little black bag, and a box and said, ‘Okay, chef, I want to show you the truffles that I just imported,’” Roederer said. “I let them open the box, because when you open it for the first time, the smell is very powerful. The truffles sold themselves.” She called her new business venture DR Delicacy.

Roederer shuffled enough truffles around town to give Chunk from The Goonies a run for his money. It helped that very few people in Houston were selling the delicacy at the time. Her reputation grew—so much so that most of the top chefs in Houston now know her simply as the “truffle lady.” If you’ve ever been out a fancy local restaurant and had truffles, those rare bulbous fungi that grow underground, thinly shaved atop your plate, it’s likely that you know her, too.

Beyond truffles, over the years Roederer has created a name for herself on the Houston culinary scene as someone with an unwavering passion for connecting chefs to the perfect specialty ingredient to elevate their menus. Not only did she always have the freshest and tastiest products, but chefs knew that if she didn’t, she was someone who could find them. 

“[My products] were the freshest they could be,” she said. After reliably producing the best truffles for so long, “Chefs would ask me for all kinds of ingredients—‘I can’t find those mushrooms here in Houston, come on, Diane, find them’—so I said, ‘Okay, give me a list!’” Armed with lists of specialty ingredients from chefs, she would go to work tracking down each one.

In 2016, DR Delicacy began selling truffle products to all 10 Central Markets in Texas and multiple high-end restaurants across Houston. At the DR Delicacy storefront in northwest Houston, you can find shelves filled with every kind of truffle-infused product, including olive oil, clarified butter, truffle honey, and truffle slicers. 

“To me, the restaurant business is like running a pharmacy. It’s super specialized, with smaller quantities, whereas the grocery store has 20 types of mushrooms, and they’ll take 10–40 pounds of each kind,” Roederer said. “The dynamic is what makes this industry so fun.”

How Roederer ended up as the unsung hero of the Houston culinary scene is as random and lucky as, well, locating a prize truffle. In 1991, after a short visit for a big-game hunting excursion in Del Rio, Texas, Roederer fell in love with a local man. She left her hometown of Strasbourg, France, near the German border, and moved to Del Rio. In 2012 she moved to Houston with her two children, and it wasn’t long after that she had her epiphany in Spain and began her truffle-import business, right from her garage.

“Really, my life has been dictated by hunting,” Roederer said. “I’ve hunted pretty much on all continents, because I think it’s the best way to travel. I am a big-game hunter. It brought me to Texas and brought me to my business.”

Today, Roederer supplies her luxury culinary goods to more than 300 restaurants in Houston and recently started a partnership with H-E-B to bring other high-end fungi, such as chanterelles, porcini, morels, black trumpets, oyster, and maitake to more than 20 stores in the state. She has also added many other gourmet goods to her store, including caviar, pastas, mushrooms, canned fish, butters, foie gras, and more. Anything a chef can add to a list, Roederer says she can find.

“I used to travel around the world with my parents, and every summer we would go to another part of the world and taste food. And I love going to markets,” Roederer said. “It’s cool, fun, and friendly. There’s always the most interesting people in those markets and always something new to try. If there’s a market somewhere, I will be there.”

In 2015 Roederer founded the annual Truffle Masters event. Every year, she hosts a select gathering of foodies: Chefs get a pound of fresh black truffles to prepare however they wish, creating 500 small bites served to the 500 guests (there were 250 when it started). There’s wine, entertainment, and 12 hand-selected judges from across the state (with a palate for truffle dishes) who determine the year’s Truffle Master.

In 2022, the team from MAD and BCN Taste & Tradition restaurants won the title of Truffle Master with their bonbon of Basque cheesecake filled with citrus and truffle confit, and shaped like an astronaut’s helmet. The People’s Choice winner was Kata Robata for their fatty tuna hand roll and truffle cream-filled cookie.

“Having a palate for delicacies is like having a palate for wine,” Roederer said. “You can train yourself, but also when you add your life experiences—cooking a lot, superb produce, and going to the markets—you start to pick up on what good taste is.”

While Roederer will continue to work with local chefs and sell gourmet imports, her most recent venture with H-E-B will be to train the staff how to care for and sell mushrooms. She’s also been asked to bring in unique cheeses from Europe, which she describes as being “the next big thing.”

“Building a business from scratch is a lot. It takes everything out of you, but it especially takes persistence,” Roederer said. “It’s also about giving back and supporting the industry. It’s a little more than just selling stuff; being a part of the community is important to me.”

Thinking back to that fortuitous excursion in the Spanish mountains almost a decade ago, Roederer sums up her work and life philosophy pretty well: “For any opportunity that comes, at least say yes, then see if it’s worth it.”

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