Ambasciatori del Gusto for Italy

The goals of new-born association uniting the best in Italian cuisine...

Paolo Marchi and Cristina Bowerman, with Alessandr

Paolo Marchi and Cristina Bowerman, with Alessandro Gilmozzi, present the logo of Ambasciatori del Gusto. The new association was launched two days ago at the Ministry of Agricultural Policies in Rome: it will unite the best in Italian cuisine so as to work as a team and present Italian excellence abroad too (photo by Brambilla-Serrani)

Since we were meeting in a room dedicated to Camillo Cavour, Paolo Marchi’s joke was inevitable: «He was the one who united the country, we want to unite Italian cuisine». No breaching Porta Pia, this time: a final picture in Via XX Settembre, the headquarters of the Ministry of Agricultural Policies – also in Rome – was enough to physically represent the act that certified the birth of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association.

This will not be yet another badge to add to many others. Indeed the association was created to unite the best in the Italian restaurant sector in just one association, so as to valorise the national food and wine cultural heritage, both in Italy and abroad. It aims to be dynamic, proposing, operational: right from the first event in which it will take part, the very debut of the Settimana mondiale della cucina italiana di qualità, from 21st till 27th November, to be presented at Villa Madama on 26th October: members of the Ambasciatori del Gusto (there were 44 founding members when they signed the document in front of a notary, last June 20th; they’re now already around ninety, here’s the complete list) will be asked to represent the deliciousness of the country in the Italian diplomatic offices around the world, in a big organisational effort to include some 1,300 events.

Group photo with the Ambasciatori del Gusto

Group photo with the Ambasciatori del Gusto

As a proof of their serious intentions, a couple of days ago, at the presentation of the Ambasciatori del Gusto, there was basically everyone in the Italian restaurant scene, starting from big “maestri” and famous members such as Aimo and Nadia Moroni, Alfonso Iaccarino and Annie Féolde. Then on stage there were president Cristina Bowerman, honorary president Carlin Petrini, the vice-president and engine of this entire operation Paolo Marchi, while some of the members of the first board of directors spoke in turns: Cesare Battisti (general secretary), Renato Bosco, Carlo Cracco, Roberto Petza, Mariella Caputo, Alessandro Gilmozzi, Marco Sacco, Moreno Cedroni and Pietro Leemann. Beside them, the man who, representing the institutions, supported and followed the journey they took, in his now constant work to support Italian cuisine, that is to say Minister Maurizio Martina, from Lombardy though acting as host in Via XX Settembre.

As pointed out, the non-profit organization intends to represent every facet of the restaurant industry. Hence it includes cooks, restaurateurs, pizzaioli, sommeliers, dining room staff, pastry chef, ice cream producers: prominent people, but most of all people who have made Italian cuisine and its industry excellent, thanks to their commitment and the quality of their work.

«Thanks to the recent experience with Expo Milano 2015, the meaning of Ambasciatori has met our world, asking us to complete an ambitious mission: divulging the identity, history and sensitivity of our country through our passion – said president Cristina Bowerman – Today Italian cuisine means tradition, excellence and an unbreakable tie with the territory. But it also means research and innovation: a growth led by the most articulated sense of all, taste. Speaking of the Ambasciatori del Gusto, today, we think of the work of men and women who not only live in kitchens or restaurants, but travel, learn and give back the experience they acquired through their interpretation. Our mission is born from being aware that expressing and valorising the heritage of Italian wine and food means contributing, in synergy with the institutions, in the development of our country».

The stage: Paolo Marchi, Cristina Bowerman, Carlin Petrini, minister Maurizio Martina

The stage: Paolo Marchi, Cristina Bowerman, Carlin Petrini, minister Maurizio Martina

The project is the result of a long reflection that has had some turning points and moments of development on the occasion of decisive institutional events such as: the First Forum of Cucina Italia (2nd March 2015, read our article here), the presentation, during Expo Milano 2015, of the “Food Act” (27th July 2015, read our article here) – the programmatic document which, for the first time in the food sector, includes an action plan to valorise Italian cuisine by joining the efforts of institutions and professionals – and, later, the signing of the Protocollo di Intesa per la Valorizzazione all’Estero della Cucina Italiana di Alta Qualità (15th March 2016, read our article here).

Indeed it is thanks to the support given by the institutions, and to support them as well, that the association intends to put its objectives into practice through different projects. The goals range from promoting Italian products and the values behind Made in Italy, in Italy and abroad, to maintaining an active role in the promotion of food culture in schools and health establishments; to creating the opportunity to exchange ideas on social themes that are relevant for the sector, with the involvement of national, European and international entities, so as to build a coordinated message, supporting quality and general wellbeing. This without forgetting the education of the new generations, to whom it directs its projects so as to improve the school and work careers, creating a dialogue with the Ministry of Education.

Many people contributed in the presentation. Here is a summary.
Paolo Marchi: «I was calmer in April 2004 when I presented the first edition of Identità Golose during Vinitaly... I got the idea for the Ambasciatori del Gusto association in Copenhagen. I was eating mozzarella with Carlin Petrini, and together we understood that we either acted fast, or they would steal from us our culinary excellence. We want to be operative: face problems, interact with institutions, work as a team, find solutions. We’re starting off with a large group of professionals».

Corrado Assenza: «This group was created to collect all the best in food, from me, a barman, to his majesty Aimo Moroni. I’m grateful to minister Martina for the work he’s doing for Italian agriculture. I was born in the countryside and return there every day: we must all be the eyes and mouth of the extraordinary production chain that lies behind us: farmers, breeders, fishermen. Their world, and the world of cuisine, must be welded. I am praised here because I make cannoli: well, we now need to give more dignity even to the person producing the milk thanks to which I can make these cannoli».

Carlo Cracco: «It’s very interesting that we’re here, now, because it means we’ve learnt to act as a team and move ahead united».

Davide Oldani: «We must thank Identità Golose: they were the only ones to have the strength and determination to bring us together. I was the Sport & food ambassador in the Olympic Games in Rio with the same goal behind the birth of Ambasciatori del Gusto and so as to represent a topic I hold very dear, educating young people and the connection between cooking and sport».

Franco Pepe: «Years ago I started to create a dialogue with local farmers, today the dialogue is with institutions: it’s a big step ahead. Years ago, people fled the historic centre in the place I come from, Caiazzo in the Alto Casertano. Businesses were closing. Today with my pizzeria I bring to this village with 4,500 inhabitants some 14-15,000 people every month. Small shops that were closed are now open again, the young farmers with whom I work see new opportunities. Even rent has tripled. This can be the strength of the restaurant sector».

Carlin Petrini: «This is a strategically important project, for our country of course, but also with a perspective that can be extended to the entire world. The goal must be to go back to connect agriculture and restaurant offer, so as to provide an alternative model for economic development. Today, abroad, Italian wine and food represent the best and the worst. The worst because you can find horrible raw materials everywhere, which have nothing to do with our own, but are nonetheless presented as Italian: they devalue Italian excellence in putrid restaurants, which some association even supported for many years. And then there’s the best, which can also have oriental eyes or a darker skin: there are many foreigners who do honour to Italian cuisine, and present it in the best possible way. We must chase the former and lovingly welcome the latter, our allies. And we must make people understand, even abroad, that fresh raw materials must be local; however, the result of our gastronomic artisanship should only be Italian».

Maurizio Martina: «We started on 2nd March 2015. We’ve taken some incredible steps since then. At the time I wondered: where are Italian cooks? Who are they? Here you are: you now move from being many separate individuals to being a collective body who will take its part – just like the institutions – in reinforcing Italy, with the many tools that we’re making available».

It’s only the beginning.


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