Cristina Bowerman, president of the Ambasciatori del Gusto
These are hard, very hard times. Enthusiasm is not enough, faith is not enough and nor are the (sometimes) eccentric theories on the necessary laws. This pandemic, and the important outcome it will bring, will be remembered for decades to come as a series of statistics on deaths, sick and infected people, R0 or R1… A dark time in our history from which we must try to learn something.
I could make a long list of things I have learnt, from the personal to the business life. But only a couple are very clear to me.
The first is that the Italian people have placed their trust in the State, like children believing in their dad. It’s the same feeling of a sick person who entrusts any pseudo-doctor, placing every hope in his advice and in his prescriptions, without questioning whether the cure is plausible or not.
The second is innate, rooted in the incapability of joining forces. One of the characteristics I have always admired in the people of the United States is instead this desire, this attitude to aggregate which is sometimes excessive. As a joke, I often said that Americans, because of their need to “belong” to something or someone will unite for any reasons. Always as a joke, I would say that if I were to create a group for “collectors of golden buttons with 4 holes”, I would have followers overnight.
I have often asked myself why this. The explanation I’ve given myself, without trying to give an anthropological reason which I wouldn’t be able to do, is always the same: family. I know, it may seem strange, but I believe it is so.
Italians, no matter how much the lifestyle has changed, grow in the family; they often stay in the same town until they’re adults, if not forever; they grow with the concept of comitiva (a band of friends); they have a large family always available. These are all things that often don’t happen in the United States where people are often more mobile and already at 16-18 they move out to go to college and perhaps have an odd job too.
The concept of comitiva is connected with where you live at a specific time: these are not your historic friends like my dear Emanuela, who I still see and whom I met in middle school. See, I think that that sensation of not being anchored, which we can find in the US, but not in Italy, will lead to a greater need to “be a part” of something.
This attitude for aggregation, which sometimes grows so much it gives voice to something, often has positive outcomes. Think of the “move on” that grew overnight, like #metoo. In Italy, we find it hard to unite. However, at least in the restaurant industry, a real work of lobbying would be necessary.
Yes, I know: the word lobby in our country doesn’t have a particularly positive meaning. And I don’t see why. A close-knit pressure group is necessary so that voices, now varied and scattered, can be heard in a deafening chorus.
The #FareRete union reunited most Italian catering associations. Perhaps too late to be heard. It’s now necessary to continue this journey, and reinforce it
During this pandemic I’ve seen many initiatives including the significant and very difficult one conducted by Ambasciatori del Gusto who tried to build this first form of lobbying by curating the direction of #FareRete. Yet – despite the uniforms and chairs in the square, the letters to Conte, the protests on Facebook, the deafening silence to question asked in chat to safeguard the common interests, overall we haven’t been capable of coordinating ourselves and let a unique, and therefor strong, position emerge.
Yet it shouldn’t have been difficult: we all want the same things and the first is perhaps that of being acknowledged and respected as a group of professionals. Yes: professionals, who can take the task of bringing the culture of our country around the world... But then can’t sit around a table to discuss our own world. Professionals who create a two-digit GDP in Italy and yet they are dismissed with a: “Yes, but then, can you make us a nice carbonara?”.
There’s some bitterness in my words. But this will not erase me desire to work so that things can change. I will continue to seek that we unite as a group – or lobbying, you choose the word – because I believe our voice must be heard. And this can only happen by joining forces. We must not be afraid to dare. Even if this means calling things by their name.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Reviews, recommendations and trends from Italy, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
Glass Hostaria's chef (one Michelin star), located in Rome. President in charge of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association
Joe Bastianich. Like everyone in the industry, the Italian-American restaurant entrepreneur, and popular TV figure, is facing the difficult crisis caused by the Covid-19 emergency