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GVCI at Alma Viva 2008. Italian Cuisine in Asia: A Success Story

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From the speech given by Mario Caramella, GVCI President, at the conference “Guidelines for the promotion of Italian Cuisine in the world” during Alma Viva 2008
"Today, I wish to speak about the development and success of Italian restaurants in Asia, of which I consider myself to be one of the true advocates and pioneers. There has been no Italian emigration to Asia such as that to the Americas and Northern Europe. Therefore, Italian cuisine has arrived there directly with professional chefs and restaurant operators originally called upon by large hotel chains to carry this task out.

It was a small revolution that started at the end of the 80’s in Hong Kong, when large hotels started offering their guests our cuisine by featuring, within their complexes, Italian restaurants with Italian head chefs and maître d’s who knew how to offer their guests an authentic regional Italian cuisine and a smart service, without being just frills. It was an immediate success, thanks to the concept of “simplicity but also quality of service,” and because of the immediacy of the dishes that were perceived and understood not only by international guests but also by the Asians themselves, who found a point of connexion between pasta and their culinary culture – noodles, to be precise.
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Such has been the success, that now, in the year 2008, 20 further years of success later, very few hotels feature French restaurants. The reigning cuisine is la cucina italiana, Italian chefs, sommeliers and maître d’s have literally – and pacifically – invaded Asia, bringing in tow producers and exporters of foodstuffs and wine and, indeed, even the presence of Italian importers operating in Asia is to be found; so the communication between Asia and Italy is becoming much easier.

At the beginning it was very difficult: The Chinese didn’t understand Italian and the Italians didn’t understand English. To ask a supplier to import, for example, some lardo di Colonnata was an impossible undertaking. Fortunately, today in Hong Kong it can be found at the supermarket along with prosciutto di cinta senese [from Siena], traditional aceto balsamico [from Modena] and red late-harvest radicchio [from Treviso].
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Another important point that is already giving and will keep giving a big shove to the “Made in Italy” label is the fact that the operators, who at the beginning have positions such as chef de cuisine or restaurant manager, usually have brilliant careers and go on to become food and beverage directors, executive chefs and even general directors. Well, now at this point, not only does the Italian restaurant use products “Made in Italy,” but also the entire hotel falls under the influence; the butcher’s, the pâtisserie, the bakery, the wines on menus, the bars, the frigobars in the rooms and room service.So then, all these departments change and start using Italian products and offering Italian specialties.

I would say then that our generation has opened a door and leveled a way for the generations to come. But now, what do we still need? Maybe a little more aggressiveness, and also a little more professionalism on the part of the Italian producers; not so much regarding their products, they’re fine! But it would be helpful to pay more attention to details, packaging, marketing, information and to the transmission of that information to those who, not having Italian DNA, don’t know or can’t distinguish an authentic product of quality from shoddy or fake one.

And products such as Parmigiano retinato [rejected, that is] shouldn’t leave Italy; such things cause confusion. Passports should be given to the better products, falsified products should be held back from leaving the country or those who want such products should be informed and made aware of the fact that they are buying Grade B products.

Furthermore, more firmness on the part of the authorities would be necessary to lift the ban on importation to some countries of the basic products needed for performing Italian cooking. Also a single association of operators strong enough to give the image of authenticity of Italian cuisine, so that it becomes global, would be necessary. This has already been done with fashion, for example.
... and we need a worldwide media event with the renowned names of popular stars and artists in cultural realms to be staged along with the best of Italy’s chefs abroad, in order to be able to amplify and broadcast our message to all.
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Furthermore, schools in Italy should start to prepare youngsters not only to be cooks in Italy, but also in the rest of the world.

In conversations amongst Italian chefs in Italy, I notice a certain sense of inferiority in respect to their French cousins, for whom we abroad have deep respect. But in our case, maybe the opposite happens; it’s often the French chefs who have the sense of inferiority! – at least when faced with the success stories of Italian restaurants all over the world; and I repeat, with all our respect for the professionalism that the French show...

 

GVCI at Alma Viva 2008: It's time to change the way Italian cuisine is promoted abroad

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“The Italian style in cuisine: success stories from around the world” and “Guidelines for the promotion of Italian Cuisine in the world” were the topics of the main conferences scheduled at this year’s (2008) Alma Viva, Le giornate internazionali della Cucina Italiana. The annual meeting, organised by La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina chaired by Gualtiero Marchesi, was held in Colorno (Parma) on 5th and 6th October.

The event may well represent a turning point in the history of Italian cuisine abroad because, for the first time, the qualified representatives of many important Italian culinary associations, as well as some of the most famous and talented Italian chefs and restaurateurs, met to discuss the issues of Italian cuisine abroad.

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Among the formers there were representatives of the Italian Federation of Cooks (FIC), Eurotoques and the Italian Federation of Public Food Outlets (FIPE), while among the latter there was Raffaele Alajmo, Massimo Bottura and Claudio Sadler.

Various GVCI members were among the speakers: President Mario Caramella (see excerpt of his speech below), New York based chef Cesare Casella and Rosario Scarpato (Honorary President and Managing Editor of this site) who showed a documentary he has produced for Rai Sat Gambero Rosso Channel, on 20 years of fine Italian cuisine in Hong Kong (La Bella Cucina in Hong Kong)

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Other chefs and restaurateurs working outside Italy also participated in Alma Viva, including Fabio Trabocchi (Chef of Fiamma, New York), Renato Favaro (Luxembourg), Italo Bassi (Enoteca Pinchiorri, Tokyo) and Paolo Seletti (Caffè Parma, Beijing).

During the conferences, moderated by food writer Paolo Marchi, many speakers voiced harsh critism of the lack of effective action taken by Italian public institutions to promote Italian cuisine abroad.

Gianfranco Caprioli, a high-ranking manager at the Italian Ministry of Economy, and Riccardo Deserti, a representative of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, listened to the critics and both have since declared themselves to be open to evaluate new projects, particularly if proposed by an organization such as GVCI.

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The Power of itchefs-GVCI: Alma Viva, a chef’s wife and Fabbri

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Last October, Mario Caramella (GVCI President) and Rosario Scarpato (Honorary President and itchefs-gvci Managing Editor) attended Alma Viva, a conference organised by Alma, La Scuola Internazionale di cucina in Colorno, Province of Parma, directed by Gualtiero Marchesi. After returning home, Rosario wrote in the GVCI Forum this contribution on the role of group, which generated two interesting testimonials.

The first one came from Natalie, wife of Gianmaria Morelli, an itchfef based in Australia, and the other one from Nicola Fabbri, Fabbri 1905 company director, a long-time supporter of GVCI and manufacturer of one of the most representative products of Italy.

WHAT’S THE ROLE OF ITCHEFS-GVCI by Rosario Scarpato

“Do you know why Alma’s conference in Parma has been important? At least for those who, like us, either cook or promote Italian cuisine around the world? It has been important because it was an open space to discuss our issues, those related to Italian Cuisine outside of Italy. It has been important because by now it’s no longer possible to talk about Italian style in the kitchen without getting those who represent Italian cuisine in the world involved. It was very significant that Italian chefs of the calibre of Ciccio Sultano, Alfonso Iaccarino, Davide Scabin, took center stage at the conference. However, for us it was meaningful that chefs as our own itchef Cesare Casella (New York), Dario Tomaselli (Toronto) and Piero Selvaggio (Valentino Santa Monica USA), had the chance to speak as well. Furthermore, it was very important that our President, Mario Caramella, was a member of the jury of the Alma Viva Culinary Awards “Giovani Talenti” (Young Talents). Also, it’s not a coincidence that around the same dates the Gambero Rosso Ristoranti d’Italia guide was launched featuring – for the first time – a section devoted to Italian Restaurants outside Italy. I believe that these results (and many more) have been achieved thanks to the “cultural” presence of our Group. We shouldn’t relax though, a new era is about to start and it’s up to us to influence it positively”.

THE POWER OF OUR GROUP, AN ITCHEF’S WIFE PERSPECTIVE by Natalie Morelli, wife of itchefs Gianmaria Morelli

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“Good afternoon Rosario, it’s no longer possible. For years I’ve been passively reading the GVCI emails just as a “Chef’s wife”, but now feel the need to interact.
GVCI power works, it's happening, and it's moving forward! I'd like to site our personal {mosimage}experience of having recently immigrated from Italy back to my home town of Australia, Noosa, Queensland to be exact. After looking at many restaurant opportunities here, that was our original idea, we have decided to make gelato and are convinced to follow the line of producing culture here locally and supporting Italian products. Namely, Fabbri. Producing Gelato as it should be made. Why do I say this?
Through contacts of the GVCI and Host 2006, we were able to have personally the honor of meeting Dr. Nicola Fabbri, and now believe that it will further the Italian culinary culture here in Australia. Something that everyone (here in Oz) is ready for.
Gianmaria, has recently, returned to Italy and undertaken a specialised course with Fabbri, to ensure the products are used to the maximum of their capacity, which was all easily organised thanks to the outreach of the GVCI. In the follow up, we have gained great contacts and all the world seems a country. This at the end of the day is the power of GVCI here in little old Australia”.

Natalie and Gianmaria Morelli have just started Palato Gelato. Italian tradition made in Noosa. www.palatogelato.com.au. For more info: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

NICOLA FABBRI: WE REFLECT THE ROARING GROWTH OF THE ITALIAN FOOD SUCCESS by Nicola Fabbri

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“Dear Natalie, many years ago a good friend of mine and an agent for Fabbri in Asia, asked me if I would be interested in sponsoring a group of Italian chefs, employed abroad, who had the dream of creating in the web a community where all their colleagues could meet, feel less lonely, exchange ideas, experiences and ‘secrets of the trade’. It seemed to me a great idea and I gladly agreed. In these years I have met many of them and we have all became friends. The privilege of going and dining at their restaurants is equal only to the honor of giving a hand, I do know best in that area, when they need it.
I took the liberty of sending a copy of your letter to all our distributors all over the world and to the GMs of all our subsidiaries, they share our same feeling about service and assistance and they all are ready to give you and all the GVCI members and affiliates a hand if needed. Thanks to the efforts of the founders and its secretary, this community is growing and expanding all over the world reflecting the roaring growth of the Italian food success. It is for Fabbri a privilege to be a part of this community. My very best regards and a "in bocca al lupo " for your new enterprise”.

Nicola Fabbri is one of the Company Directors of Fabbri 1905 Spa, which invented the world renowned “amarena” and other fruit syrups and today is leader in the promotion of the Italian Art of Confectionery. The production of the company, based in Bologna (Emilia Romagna Region,) comprises over 1000 different products including those dedicated to artisan gelato parlours and artisan confectioners.

 

Alma – The international school of Italian cuisine joins itchefs-GVCI friends

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Alma, the world’s leading international training centre for Italian Cuisine, directed by the Italian Master Chef Gualtiero Marchesi, joins itchefs-gvci friends. With its headquarters in the splendid Palazzo Ducale di Colorno near Parma, Emilia Romagna Region, Alma trains chefs from around the world, creating true professionals of Italian Cuisine. Alma is the first supporter of the project Online Classifieds.

ALMA has a mission to become the world’s leading international training centre for Italian Cuisine.
Directed by the Italian Master Chef Gualtiero Marchesi, Alma’s aim is to train chefs from around the world, creating true professionals of Italian Cuisine with training programmes at the highest level executed by the world’s leading teachers on Italian food and cuisine.
ALMA has its headquarters in the splendid Palazzo Ducale di Colorno near Parma, Emilia Romagna Region, fitted out with the latest teaching and cooking facilities.
For people who have chosen to work in the fascinating world of fine cooking, ALMA represents a valuable investment in their future as well as an extraordinary training experience.
Alma’s unique Advanced Course in Italian cuisine has a 10 month duration and is the only intensive course available in Italy. The extraordinary competence of the School brings together Italy's most prestigious chefs to build an exceptional culinary education experience

“Example is the highest form of teaching, as those who have worked with me know full well. ALMA is a new point of reference for lovers of Italian Cuisine who want to achieve the highest professional standards”.
Gualtiero Marchesi