‘When you share food, you share a bond’
2008-06-19 15:28:20 -
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Seven years ago, Marco Giannantonio had just finished studying law in Rome and came for a holiday to Ireland to improve his English. After falling in love with the country and its people, Giannantonio stayed, and found a job as a waiter. “For a young guy like me, having an opportunity to work in a place like Dublin was fantastic,” he says. “It is so full of life and cultures from all over the world.

It was also starting its economic boom and that energy is attractive to young people, it makes it a great place to stay”. Giannantonio also makes the point that living in another city, away from home ties, is important for a young person. “For me it was important to live in a different place. At home you have nice comfortable habits, you know everyone. But you can lose some freedom and originality. “It is a challenge to move away from that security, meet new people. But it is also rewarding, you can become more yourself and find out who you are, not what others expect you to be.” Giannantonio split his time between Italy and Ireland. “I was spending two months here in Dublin as a waiter, which I loved, and two months back in Rome practising as a court solicitor as part of my final studies. I did this for two years.”

In 2005 he qualified as a solicitor, and had to decide what to do with his life. For a few months, Giannantonio worked in Ireland as a solicitor, but was not finding fulfilment. “I liked the study of law but to practice is different,” he explains. “Every day you have to compromise; you cannot look at yourself in the mirror.

It does not reconcile with a good life. I wanted to be more myself and share emotions everyday, not to wear a mask. “If you are doing a job you don’t like, that is worse than being married to someone you don’t like,” he says. Realising that time is precious “and not to be wasted”, Giannantonio knew in his heart that what he really he wanted to do was work with food and with people, the things he loves most. Together with business partner Maurizio Mastrangelo, Giannantonio started importing organic food from Italy, but they soon felt they needed something to set themselves apart from the many competitors in their field. Seeing that their cookery demonstrations were popular, they decided to “go for our fantasy and open a cookery school”. Soon after, the Flavour of Italy Italian School of Cooking was born, and the pair have not looked back since. “We wanted to introduce Italian cookery to ordinary people in an informal setting,” says Giannantonio. The pair began by targeting locals and businesses to get their school known, offering classes and team building exercises for companies. The classes are conducted by head chef Marco Roccasalvo.

Through flyers, word about the school grew, and they quickly moved to larger premises. The pair are currently negotiating the lease on a bigger place still. “The new premises will comprise the cookery school, a warehouse and some preparation area for our catering side,” says Giannantonio.

In fact, the outside catering arm of the business, CaterItaly (www.cateritaly.com), has so far proved to be very lucrative. “We started sending our chefs to private houses for dinners and parties and it has grown,” says Giannantonio. Clients have included the Italian Embassy, parties during the Ryder Cup, and Hermitage Golf Club.

The Irish Georgian Society will be the latest to enjoy the Flavour of Italy this week when they celebrate their 50th anniversary at Leixlip Castle. “We will be doing canapés and finger food for over 400 people,” explains Giannantonio. “There will be a lot of beautiful fish, salmon and rocket, tiny pizzas, buffalo mozzarella, mini pies with spinach and ricotta or prosciutto, aubergine tarts, pastry mignon with chocolate and a giant parmesan cheese that we have brought specially over from Italy for the party.” Giannantonio explains that “the organisation at big functions like this is military. It must be perfect as you do not get a second chance, but my staff is passionate about this, they are the best.” Flavour of Italy currently employs six staff, with other chefs and waiters on call for busy events, and a further three staff in Italy. Not one to sit on his laurels, Giannantonio is also planning a restaurant called Pinocchio and a cookery book, both imminent.

Food is, according to Giannantonio, a powerful thing. “When you share food at a table,” he says, “you share an emotional bond. When you eat together it is convivial, which is Latin for living together.” Flavour of Italy was a recent winner at the permanent tsb Ethnic Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Would you like to have your business profiled?

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