Remember last year when I was judging at the Gelato Festival for the World’s Best? Well, kinda like the world cup, rounds are now running leading up to the next world competition in 2021.
This mid-September, I was on the panel to judge for the European Finals “All Stars” for title of Best in Europe, and those present at the All Stars competition were winners from previous rounds held around the world. The winners here will go on to the next rounds on the road to World’s Best.
So how was it?
Honestly, the Gelato Festival at glance seems like a mega corporate sponsored event. Carpigiani gelato machine manufacturer is behind the festival which travels the world to designate distinction to participating gelato maestri. Carpigiani’s goal (besides selling machinery) is to promote the culture of artisanal gelato around the world. The kind of gospel I can get behind! They were smart to hold the Best in Europe/All Star’s competition in Florence, as this is considered the birthplace of gelato thanks to Mr. Buontalenti
The company also runs a gelato university outside Bologna which provides structured technical training to aspiring gelato maestri or one day lessons to enthusiasts from around the world.
I’ve visited the university and it’s definitely worth a visit. Certainly worth more of a visit than Eataly world if I had to choose. Especially since there is an informative museum charting the history of frozen treats over centuries. Carpigiani does more than just sell gelato machines, which I do respect.
Mind you, the Gelato Festival is not the only gelato competition in Italy, there is also Sherbeth in Palermo (actually this weekend the 27-30th September).
The maestri present are from around the world and around Italy and are of all age groups. Which is refreshing in a country like Italy where aspiring, talented youth are often marginalized.
Instead of detailing all the gelato there, I’d rather cut to the chase. And that is, a Calabrian gelato maestro Eugenio Morrone from Il Cannolo Siciliano in Rome won with his “mandarino tardivo”, which won a previous competition in 2016.
There are mostly the same maestri competing and with mostly the same flavors as previous competitions. I wonder why there aren’t new faces and if the categories should be reconsidered. I.e. category for sorbet, cream-based, a experimental and classic.
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Today I got to play gelato judge for @gelatofestival- best jury duty ever! One of the notables was this Sbrisolona with reciotto bianco gelato by Italian 2x downhill biking world champion #giovannabonazzi from Verona🍦🍇She’s clearly no stranger to defying gendered odds in Italy as she was the only woman among a pool of 15 other men makers competing for the title as best gelato master (gelatiere) in Europe. Despite the uncomfortable reminder of the status-quo in Italy, this fascinating scoop (which won Giovanna the title in 2014) highlights historic corn/polenta almond tart (sbrisolona) from Mantua, using the recipe from 12 Apostoli (a high cuisine institution in Verona) with a spritz of reciotto dessert wine. The festival will be scooping all weekend in Piazzale Michelangelo, and you can gelato judge too as the winner is selected based on both the jury and visitors votes, announced Sunday evening. In bocca al lupo! #gelatoholic 💪🚴🏻♀️🏅
My biggest judgement of all was the lack of women represented in any of these Gelato Festival competitions. At least on the jury I was in company with 2 other women, who were respected journalists with local newspapers. But out of the 16 (SIXTEEN) gelato maestri vying for the title of best in Europe, there was one woman, Giovanna Bonazzi. And she happened to also be a TWICE world winning downhill cyclist.
I’m sorry, I’m sure some of you may be thinking “um, darling we all know Italy is a patriarchal society- accept it or leave it.” But why though?
I’m not one for labels, but I do my best to insist for what is fair. And it is not fair in a culture like Italy’s who praises the mother figure so much– especially in the kitchen- famously ignores women so blatantly in the professional food world. And what’s worse is the complacency and complicity I constantly witness.
I do not agree with the denial that sexism is pervasive in Italy nor do I agree with staying silent and polite on the matter.
I asked one of the event reps why there was only one woman competing, their response was “that’s how it always is, men just happened to win the previous rounds to arrive here.”
LOOK HARDER. Women in food are out there. If I can find women pizzaioli and women pistachio growers (article tbd)- you can find women gelato makers.
I’m not saying men don’t deserve to be celebrated for their talent, what I am saying is the playing field should be more fair and inclusive. Another inclusion I’ve expressed a desire to see more of is including young talent.
The youth unemployment rate in Italy- for high paying/ranking professional positions- is notoriously high compared to many countries in Europe. From my observation, youth unemployment is only improving in low-paying positions in the service industry. This observation rings especially true thanks to the food boom in cities like Florence where trendy shabby chic restaurants, gelaterie and new wave pizzerias are as common as coffee shops in Seattle.
While there is a lot of opportunity in the service sector, being a respected chef the media clamors over seems reserved for older men. That though, is changing from my observation.
A great example of how Italy is making improvements in providing agency to young talent is a project called Postrivoro. These are one-off dining events held in the small town of Faenza, famed for ceramic, in the N. Eastern region of the Emilia-Romagna. I’d describe it as a sort of pop-up concept showcasing young, established chefs for a one-time modern/globally inspired culinary event. Unlike the pop-ups I’ve experienced in the states, the Postrivoro events are held in a medieval Borgo not like an abandoned space or after-hours restaurant space.
The project is spearheaded by Enrico Vignoli who has worked with Massimo Bottura and Osteria Francescana from chef to director of operations since 2007. I attended Postrivoro via invite last weekend. This menu’ and lunch event was procured by chef Riccardo Forapani and his team, including some help from the staff at Osteria Francescana.
During which I was delighted by the energy and the evident efforts towards celebrating young chefs in contemporary dining. I’ll let some of the food speak for itself. Forapani has spent time working at Osteria Francescana and is native to the Emilia Romagna. The menu’s intention was to represent the region’s culinary treasure chest, cheeky experimentation with a global approach.
Apparently there is away to purchase a ticket to help in the kitchen- genius business model!
The team of Postrivoro, which is not just Enrico but 9 total young (men & women:) professionals come from a mix of backgrounds (chefs, directors to PR). The events are held one weekend monthly for just one lunch and dinner, and the chef and sommelier are nominated after someone in the team personally visits their home restaurant. Sorta like a secret shopper pop-up?
In case you’re wondering: why the name? “Postrivoro derives from Postribolo meaning to showcase and sell in Latin and we added the suffix -voro as it relates to eating” according to one of the association’s members Michela Iorio.
While this post started with a bittersweet reflections on the state of the Italian culinary arts from the gelato festival, it ended with a hopeful note with discovering Postrivoro. The events promote young, established culinary talent and the next one coming up is showcasing a vegetarian chef trio team from Barcelona, 2 of which who are young women 😉
The pop-ups are popular and sell out quick. If you will be in the Emilia-Romagna anytime soon, I suggest tracking down and snagging seats. From Florence, it was a quick less than 2hr train ride away, which on the way back flew as in a food-induced nap.
In your honest trust,