Today we meet Beatrice Ughi, the President of Gustiamo Inc, a company importing Italian food excellencies in the US. Their mission is help the Italian producer and support the reputation of excellence that the Made in Italy food has all around the world.
Our food ambassador, Francine Segan, had the pleasure to meet her:
1) Nine words to introduce you.
Tenacious, Determined, Passionate, Italian-Italian, Strong willed, Compassionate, Fighter, Businesswoman, Proud
2) What episode started your food passion?
It started when I understood what it represents, what happens behind the scenes. For example, the story of a family making pasta. I went to visit the Martelli family. They make pasta in Lari, a small town near Pisa. The Pastificio Martelli started in 1926, in front of the Lari castle. It’s a charming place. If the Martelli family weren’t there, if there were no Pastificio, in front of the castle there would be a supermarket, a bank or a GAP shop. Food production is important to everything, even to the urban and social structure of a community.
3) What is the recipe or Italian dish that represents you best?
Pasta, for sure. We just started importing a type of pasta, made from a flour ground in a stone mill, from an ancient Sicilian wheat. It’s the Busiate di Tumminia, made in Castelvetrano by Filippo Drago, Mulini di Ponte. It’s one of the simplest, yet the most delicious things ever. This pasta represents Sicily’s history and tradition. It’s delicious even with just a little oil. And with a trapanese pesto, it’s just amazing!
4)What are the three essential “Made in Italy” products for your kitchen?
Olive oil (extra virgin, of course, other oils are made with chemicals), tomatoes pasta.
5) Who is the chef in your house?
I cook at home. But my husband helps. My husband, who is American, is in charge of the barbecue. And he uses a lot of olive oil, before and after.
6) In your opinion, what is the biggest stereotype foreigners have on italian cuisine/italian food?
The stereotypes: huge portions, too much garlic, never-ending cooking times, coffee served with lemon zest, fettuccine Alfredo. By the way, who is this Alfredo? Most Americans have never tried a good extra virgin olive oil, or a real Italian tomato.
7) Speaking about the “Italian Sounding” phenomenon, what do you think are the solutions to oppose it?
How to fight “Italian sounding”? The Institutions must fight this phenomenon, as well as the forgery of Italian products. The Italian Institutions need to favor small enterprises, not the big corporations, those do not need protection. It must be clear that the competition with fake or italian-sounding products is fierce. Small producers cannot resist, and therefore they abandon their lands. If the Italian Institutions were convinced, they would take care of this problem. And they would teach the big supermarket chains that a 7-dollar-per-litre oil is clearly not Italian, and certainly not extra virgin. Or that a “certified San Marzano” product doesn’t exist, and it would be illegal in Europe.
8) Three words to describe the Italian food abroad.
Most of the “Italian food abroad” is not Italian, it comes from other countries. It’s just the labels that have a reference to Italy, yet the labels do not write the country of origin of the ingredients. But nobody is checking them.
9) What is your role as a spokesperson for “100per100 italian” Made in Italy?
Our role is to learn, to be curious, and to always try and defend the Italian products. Our job is to praise and protect the original product and expose the fake. We speak clearly to those who have the patience to listen.
10) What awards did you win?
I don’t think we ever won a prize. I don’t think we ever took part in a competition. No, we were never awarded with the “Nobel Prize” for the True Italian Product. We focus on talking to those who want to listen. Sometimes, even the NYTimes listens to us. For instance, last year they published some infograhics on the fake San Marzano tomatoes. In the end, the journalist wrote that, if you want to be sure of what you eat, you have to go to Gustiamo! That was worth a thousand prizes!
Thanks to our Italian Food Ambassador Francine Segan for this amazing interview.
PHOTO CREDITS ©2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales