Foodie Start Up Diaries: Piazza Grande
Each Sunday and Wednesday Foodie is honoured to explore the stories behind some of the better and lesser known brands and people who will feature in the Foodie Start Up Boxes. Today, we are jubilant to present installation two of the Foodie Start Up Diaries: Piazza Grande! “Connecting Hong Kong’s foodies to small Italian producers.”
Piazza Grande is the brainchild of Italian founder and director Matteo, whose passion is to drive home the concept of ‘we are what we eat’ by connecting Hong Kong foodies to small Italian producers. With an education background in Social Science and Anthropology, he works in business and food but constantly stresses quality food, lifestyle and human behaviour, ensuring the work of Piazza Grande isn’t just numbers, but has a soul too.
Having a discussion with Matteo, one really is struck by how much he cares for what is going into our bodies and the necessity of understanding the extended network of our food and creating partnerships, rather than mindlessly consuming. Here are some further insights:
Where did the inspiration for Piazza Grande come from?
When I was growing up I never had to worry about the food that I was eating. I come from a culture where food must be good, there is no such thing as lesser quality or better quality, it is either very good or something to avoid. After living in mainland China for many years, I realized that food there was mostly just another way to do business and make money, and this was explaining the lack of quality, which I found so hard to accept. What I was eating and drinking was hurting me (for example: contaminated water, industrial oil, rotten meat, plastic eggs, fake wine etc). Because of this, through the years I have witnessed my friends’ health and my own health decrease to a level that should not be accepted, which is why the idea to start my tiny company came to my mind. I moved to Hong Kong and decided to source some of the products I used to eat when I was a child, and to focus only on the best quality that I could find. After all Italy may have its own problems, but when it comes to food quality it still has a lot to teach.
That is a very noble pursuit, and one that is overtly necessary in this part of the world. Is that why you are so passionate about what you’re doing?
I think that I am doing something good for the society by promoting a better way to eat and produce, and I think that I can also make my country proud. The food industry should be more than just a business. I believe and vegetables should always be seasonal and that nature already gives us all what we need to produce a tasty and healthy product, so we really have no need to add anything chemical to it.
That is a very big responsibility to carry, but one that is so influential in the end. Do you have any worries or concerns that keep you awake at night?
The fear that everything that I am working for may just fall apart. I don’t consider myself a business person or a money maker, which is why I am always afraid that the competition may do a better job.
We are confident of how good your products are and given they are made with such intentionally, you are certainly doing a very good job so far! What do you think sets your product apart from others?
My products have a story to tell, and they have a strong link to a certain geographical area or to one single family. The production is limited because they come from smaller realities and many of them are seasonal. They also remind us that globalization doesn’t mean that everything has to be the same, but that it also means that smaller producers from a tiny village on the Italian mountains can produce something special that can inspire and be appreciated in a market far away. This is the core of my business.