3. Accepting that, although school is nice, work is delicious. Ian Purkayastha could have enrolled two years ago at Baruch College in New York. But when the orientation day conflicted with a business trip he had scheduled, college administrators suggested that he choose between business and school. He chose business.
In his first year with P.A.Q. Gubbio, he sold enough to convince the company — which had little sales presence in the U.S. before Purkayastha came along — to hire two additional staffers in Hoboken. That’s the start of what Purkayastha hopes will eventually become an international sales network, with its own retail shop in Manhattan. And with all that going on, he’s understandably not in a rush to use the entrepreneurial college scholarship he received from the National Federation of Independent Business.
For Purkayastha’s parents, that’s a difficult decision to accept. But, as entrepreneurs themselves — they own Tejada Leather, an importing and manufacturing company with a production facility in Chennai, India — they’ve come to terms with their son’s career path.
“At this point,” says Ian’s mother, Lisa, “I realize college will be there when and if he decides to go.”
Then again, Purkayastha has done some learning. Last summer, he took Italian classes at the University of Perugia while on a three-month tour of Italy, where he studied food and culture at P.A.Q. Gubbio’s expense. And even though he still can’t legally order a bottle of Barolo to pair with a truffle dish, Purkayastha’s job allows him direct interaction with top chefs. And chefs love the truffle guy, as his goods are not just exotic but also hugely profitable. The whites that Purkayastha sells to restaurants for $2,600 a pound (more than $5 a gram) can be resold to customers for two or three times that. That gives Purkayastha immediate entry into the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in the country.
“It is a really big pain to go to a restaurant and sell directly to a chef, because they are really picky about what they buy,” Purkayastha says. “But it’s also awesome. I’ve had some amazing free meals. And since I love to cook, and more important, I love to eat, this is the right business for me.”
Frequent American Way contributor Joseph Guinto’s favorite truffle dish was a white-truffle tagliatelle, purchased at Trattoria Leonida in Bologna for a dirt-cheap $23.