Today we meet Chiara Ercole, F.lli Saclà managing director, who will tell us her bond and her love for Italian cuisine:
1) What is the experience that triggered your passion for food?
I think passion for food starts in the early childhood. As I grew up in my family’s food business I had the chance to be trained and accustomed to curiosity about food. I would taste different things with care and without biases. Curiosity has always fuelled my passion for food, which grew stronger during my trips and stays abroad where, through the opinion of the people I met, I could understand the link that ties Italians with food: a real pivot of social life and culture. Then, I decided to enhance my knowledge of food by studying nutrition.
In general, I like to discuss with those who love and know food because I think that, in the end, passion for food is something you nourish by contact and by sharing and discussing with people who love and know food.
2) If you wish to treat a foreign friend who comes to Italy for the first time from, say, the US, Asia, China or Japan, to dinner, what traditional dish would you recommend?
It is a very difficult choice, it happened to me several times, either for work or for personal matters. It is difficult because different people from different countries have a very different take on Italian cuisine. There are countries where the level of familiarity with Italian cuisine is pretty good, thanks to the presence of Italian restaurants or the initiatives of companies exporting authentic made in Italy products. I think of the UK, for instance, where we have exported pesto and pasta sauces for over twenty years and where there is a very thorough knowledge of Italian cuisine, also at the level of regional food and in terms of specific demand in supermarkets. It’s not the same everywhere, though. Most times when we have guests, we take them out to eat in Asti, our city. Here, the choice falls on traditional Piedmontese food, but we explain them that this is but a small part of the Italian culinary tradition, there’s a lot more to experiment: in the south, for instance, there are other tastes and savors. There is something different to discover on every corner of this country.
For this reason I think that variety is probably one of the most characteristic and special elements about our cuisine; because wherever you go there is a little gastronomy treasure waiting for you. This is also why we have launched the Casa Saclà line, featuring the different Italian gastronomy excellences and thanks to our expertise in ensuring product quality standards.
If I could cook for this foreign guest of mine, I would prepare an aperitif, to sample several elements of our cuisine, different ingredients from different parts of Italy, combined in a simple and even creative way.
3) Talking about aperitif, what do you think it is the real strength of this “ritual”?
I think aperitif combines three important features of the Italian way of eating. The first one is the variety – as I said before – that is the chance of sampling small portions of many different things. This somehow contrasts with what happens in many foreign countries, where people usually eat the famous “main course”, containing many different foods in the same dish. Instead, we like to have this “gastronomy ritual” of nibbling here and there, with no hurry, savoring different tastes within the same meal. Another Italian feature is that aperitif is also simple and fast to prepare, and it is based on the best ingredients that allow to create something sensational. Finally, the third feature is its being a “social” ritual, slow, where people have fun, chat, and tell about their day as they eat. Aperitif is quite a fashionable thing but very few people know that it was born here in Piedmont two hundred years ago. Over time it grew and evolved. The first addition was the bitter-tasting beverage matched with olives, chips and peanuts, and now it has grown to include full dishes, cold salads, rice and pasta salads, and so on. Saclà has always been in the appetizer business and as it grew, it followed the flow of customs. In the sixties we created the stone-free olives, in the seventies we launched Acetelli, with low acidity, followed by grilled vegetables and baked tomatoes in oil. Today, 75 years after our establishment, we launch a range of ready-made spelt and barely salads and cous cous with vegetable or with vegetable and chicken.
4) Which are the values that our “made in Italy” is still missing?
I think that the Italian supply chain already has many strengths. Knowledge, history, culture, outstanding raw material, great processing know-how, creativity, and passion in what we do and in the way we communicate it. Therefore, I think made in Italy already has a lot to be proud of. Maybe one thing we lack, and that could help us, is the ability to communicate it strongly and consistently, by promoting and exporting our approach to eating: thus educating foreign consumers to what it means to eat “all’italiana”. Not only products, then, but also exporting culture, knowledge, interest in what Italian lifestyle and eating is. And, after all, these two elements are almost the same thing in the eye of Italians.
We try to do it in our company by educating foreign consumers to our products, and how to cook and prepare them properly..
Often it happens that among our guests there are journalists, and to convey our food culture we invite them to dinner, to visit the fields where we grow basil and we make them see how we prepare our pesto.
I think this is something crucial because, people truly knowing and appreciating the quality of our products, also helps in return the entire made in Italy.
5) In a food world increasingly in demand for details and quality, how important is for Saclà the authenticity and the origin of its products? Mamma Regina
Every territory in Italy and in the world has its own excellences, not only in terms of agricultural productions, but also in terms of recipes and traditions: to discover them, to adapt them to productive needs and to try to “put them in a jar” to make them accessible to the global consumers is definitely one of the most engaging challenges of our work.
6) Imagine to leave for a long journey to a lost place, which products would you add to your luggage to feel at home and to be inspired by bounty? Chiedilo alla Dani
My ambition would be to find Saclà products everywhere in the world! Indeed it is like that, when it happens to find our condiments in Kenya, in Greenland or in a small Indonesian island, besides feeling immediately at home, I am proud because even in the other side of the world it is possible to be “inspired by bounty” with our products. But in case of a very lost place in which our distribution has not arrived yet…then I would bring with me a jar of Saclà Olives: this is a product to which I’m absolutely linked since my youth, they are also healthy and rich from the nutritional point of view: a very good product, that immediately brings emotion, gusto and quality to the table!
7) The Saclà Fresco line is interesting – a mix of innovation and tradition. Is the consumption of “preserved ready meals” diffused in the Italian market? What kind of consumer appreciates it most? Misto Frigo
The modern consumer is always looking for solutions that let him eat in a healthy, tasty and practical way. The Saclà Fresco line is the answer to these consumer needs, for those who have no time to prepare their lunch, and for those who dines out, but still looking for meal solutions tasty and balanced.
8) In the raw materials supply to manufacture your products, how much are little Italian producers valued? La Luna sul Cucchiaio
The selection of the suppliers and the raw materials provision constitute important phases in our work, because it’s here that the quality of the finished product starts to be determined; for our recipes we purchase more the 600 different ingredients and, for each ingredient, we must ensure that the supply is able to satisfy our productive needs, guaranteeing high qualitative and quantitative standards, that are also constant.
To value all the little local Italian excellences we created the Saclà Fresco line that, operating with very small productions made by craftsmen, allows us to work with local producers. From pepper of Piedmont to artichoke of Apulia, all Casa Saclà products are made according to this philosophy.
9) You represent the third generation of a great family, that build a great business throughout many historical moments from the forties till today, always dealing all situations at the best, leading the Italian market and reaching success abroad. Which is your secret? Profumi e Parole
I can’t tell which is exactly the secret that my family earlier than me, starting from my grandparents, has managed to guide the company throughout the difficult moments, leading us to reach sometimes extraordinary results. What I think, anyway, is that there is a strong devotion to work at the base, a pinch of luck, and the right balance between the concreteness of remaining down to earth and the ambition of overshooting in everything we do. To look to the future and to innovate even in the difficult moments is definitely a strong point of difference for our company.
10) If someone asks you to present your Italy, your territory, by means of three Saclà products, which one would you choose and why? Profumi e Parole
1. Baked tomatoes. A very simple product, though obtained through an exclusive and innovative technology, Saclà baked tomatoes are juicy Italian tomatoes, selected, picked and washed, peeled and baked gently within few hours and then seasoned with oil and olives or with oil and chilli pepper. Baked tomatoes are an Italian taste’s explosion, they can enrich a lot of dishes, from pasta to fish, and they summarize the Italian food’s philosophy: simple ingredients, that are chosen and prepared wisely to obtain a rich and authentic taste.
2. Pesto. Pesto is the product by Saclà that made Italian cuisine famous in more than 50 countries in the world, for more than thirty years. In many countries we have been the first brand appearing on the supermarket’s shelves with pesto, transforming a niche product from the regional cuisine into an international success. Along with sales, we increased the knowledge of Italian food, bringing many people, like buyers of the supermarket chains and food journalists to visit Italy, our basil fields, to show and tell our traditions and to let them experience Italian food.
3. Peperonata. Peperonata is one of the historical recipes by Saclà. For at least 50 years we have been cooking peppers, onions and the tomato sauce gently, following the same recipe, using the same “tricks” of the trade to get the perfect mix of sweetness, taste and spiciness and that perfect texture that is both soft and compact. Every year the production is made towards the end of summer and fills the factory and our district with its aroma; it is an aroma that symbolizes “my Italy” also because it values the pepper, a typical vegetable of the Piedmontese cuisine, a pride from our territory, so much that it is the subject in one of the most famous phrases from Piedmont (and above all from Asti): “Dui puvrun bagna’ ‘nt l’oli”! (Editor’s note: Two peppers dip into the oil)
Thanks to: Chiara Ercole and F.lli Saclà