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Spanish woman dies after eating mushrooms from Michelin-star restaurant – Stuff.co.nz

Mochella fungi, known as "true morels", are a delicacy in France but cannot be eaten raw as they contain a powerful toxin. Chefs usually dry the mushroom then rehydrate it with water or milk before cooking it thoroughly.

Mochella fungi, known as “true morels”, are a delicacy in France but cannot be eaten raw as they contain a powerful toxin. Chefs usually dry the mushroom then rehydrate it with water or milk before cooking it thoroughly.

A Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain has closed while authorities investigate the death of a woman who ate a dish of mushrooms that can be poisonous if not carefully cooked.

Maria Jesus Fernandez Calvo, 46, ordered a rice and morchella fungi dish at Valencia’s RiFF restaurant on Saturday (Sunday NZ time).

The optician and her 10-year-old son were celebrating her husband’s birthday at the eatery, which is known for “innovative” cuisine. She died on Sunday morning after bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Eleven more customers who ate at RiFF on Saturday, including Fernandez Calvo’s husband and son, suffered similar symptoms, Valencia’s medical authority has revealed.

READ MORE: Q&A: Which wild fungi are safe to eat?

However, it will not be possible to confirm whether she died from poisoning or asphyxiation from vomit in her lungs until a post-mortem examination is carried out.

“We will have to wait … before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome,” said Ana Barcela, the regional health chief. Samples of ingredients had been sent to the National Toxicology Institute, she added.

Fernandez Calvo and her family had opted for the special RiFF taster menu of various Mediterranean-inspired dishes, including one with the perilous morchella mushrooms.

Chef Bernd Knoller outside RiFF in Valencia. Knoller has expressed his "deep sorrow" over the death of Maria Fernandez Calvo.

VISITVALENCIA.COM

Chef Bernd Knoller outside RiFF in Valencia. Knoller has expressed his “deep sorrow” over the death of Maria Fernandez Calvo.

The fungi, known as “true morels”, are a delicacy in France but cannot be eaten raw as they contain a powerful toxin, hydrazine. Chefs usually dry the mushroom then rehydrate it with water or milk before cooking it thoroughly.

Health inspectors are investigating whether the mushrooms served at RiFF on Saturday were prepared correctly or if “false morels” – an inedible, even more poisonous mushroom – were served by mistake.

Chef Bernd Knoller, who started his culinary career in Britain in the 1980s, expressed his “deep sorrow” over the death of Fernandez Calvo.

In a statement, Knoller said he had taken the decision to close the restaurant until the causes of the food poisoning had been established.

“I have offered my complete co-operation to the Valencian health authority from the very start in order to clear up the facts, with the hope that we can establish the causes as soon as possible,” the German chef said.

He added that the restaurant, which earned its first Michelin star in 2009, had been given a clean bill of health in an initial inspection on Monday.

The taster menu usually comprises seven dishes, including boletus fungi, pig’s ear and rice dishes with seasonal fungi and costs €85 ($NZ141) per head.

The RiFF website says Knoller travelled to London as an 18-year-old to work at the Kensington Hilton hotel before moving to the Chester Grosvenor. He worked in Germany, France and Spain and opened RiFF in 2001.

The Michelin guide praises its “innovative cuisine … based around the highest quality, seasonal, local product”.

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