Q&A with Deb. Meet the FeastItaly.com Founder
What inspired you to start Feast Italy?
After 8 years in Australia, I came back to Europe with a very clear idea: launch a business that would help small family businesses producing the most delicious Italian food to reach new international markets. The idea to include and feature Red (aka, the Beetle) came later. I wanted it to be my journey through Italy, bring back the human side in an industry that was lacking exactly that and add a little romance too.
What memories do you have of food during your childhood in Italy?
There are so many... From making a blueberry jam tart with granny after school every week (gone in a day or two!), or stealing raw fresh pasta from the table on a Sunday morning before lunch, to watching the tomato harvest in August down in Apulia when the women of the family made "salsa" for the months to come. Small rituals, but they obviously left a mark.
What makes Italian products so special?
Italy is certainly blessed with an infinite of microclimates: San Marzano tomatoes grown near the Alps will never taste the same as the ones coming from the Valle del Sarno, where the goodness of the volcanic soil, the climate and sea breeze all converge into one spectacular produce. It's not just Mother Nature though. Centuries of knowledge passed down to fine tune, understand, experiment... it must all count for something, right?
What do you look for when seeking a new product?
Quality of course, but this usually comes in multiple factors: where it's made, how, the processes and procedures in place, but the most important aspect of all are the people behind it. I love working with small businesses because it is very much a personal affair. They have always something interesting to share, their knowledge is incredible, and I like to think that we become part of their families too. Then always very important: packaging and how open they are in letting us visit their premise. If this cannot happen, we would not sell their products.
Why is it so important to you to meet all of your producers face to face and see and understand the production of their produce?
Trust. For me to visit and meet my producers in person is a way to give the customers the ease to buy, knowing that someone is doing the leg work for them. It also brings back the human side of food: by showing those who make it, it creates a wonderful connection, amplifying the experience. Then of course, curiosity. Learning food history, traditions, rituals is fascinating!
What challenges have you had during your time running The Red Beetle? How have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge has always been around logistics: couriers, fulfilment centres, warehouse and so on. No one will look after my products or deliver them in mint conditions the same way I would. And as much as driving around Europe with the Red Beetle collecting products and delivering orders would be amazing, that is really not an option. That's the best part of running a small business though: if something does not work, it takes about 2 second to rectify and change course. Looking back at my corporate life, with so many strict rules and obligations, this is so refreshing!
What does the future holds for The Red Beetle?
New products of course, more small businesses, stories and features. Start selling through Deli's, supper clubs, events, degustation nights and more. A little dream of mine: a book. My journey through Italy, the stories, the produce, the traditions... one day.
What is your favourite Red Beetle product?
I love them all, but my favourite has always been the Hazelnut spread from the Langhe. It has the magic ability to turn a bad day, into a good one.
What is your favourite Italian dish?
Oooh, this one's tricky. There's one for every region and every season, but if I must pick, then Bucatini all'Amatriciana. And Tiramisu of course.
Photo taken at the Il Borgo del Balsamico, where the delicious balsamic vinegar is from.