Pasquale | From architect to food designer
By Eleni Meraki
I grew up in the south of Italy in a traditional Italian family. Design has been always part of my life, I studied architecture in Florence and moved to Rome to start my career at an urban architecture studio. In 2006 my partner and I decided to move to Amsterdam. We had nothing, knew nobody – but were ready for an adventure.
5 THINGS ABOUT
CHOCOLATE SALAMI | ARCHICHEF | SALT COLLECTION | NEVER HEARD OF FOOD DESIGN | CATS: BLUMAO & SMILLA
LEAP OF FAITH
I was just starting my new job in Amsterdam at an architecture studio, when the economic crisis hit (2008). It was last in, first out and I found myself in a new city where I didn’t speak the language without a job. A couple of months without work and I was frustrated and pretty depressed, I had no idea what to do with my life.
Until one evening at a party where someone asked me what (besides architecture) I enjoyed doing. I told her I loved to cook. That simple chat changed everything.
She put me in touch with a food designer. I had no background in cooking whatsoever, just pure passion. The food designer hired me and I started working part-time in her restaurant combining my passion and my skill set; food & design.
Don’t play with the food, my mother always used to say. Archichef encourages people to do just that! Archichef is the fusion of food and design to create an extraordinary creative dining experience. Bringing people together by interacting with food.
The Chocolate Salami
2 years ago I was approached to make an “extraordinary desert” for a private dinner event. I came up with the idea of the Chocolate Salami (a much-loved Italian heritage recipe). I presented it wrapped as a meat salami on a wooden board with a big carving knife. The guests were confused, were they having salami for desert? The design encouraged conversation, experimentation. After that dinner there were quite a few inquiries from people to buy the product. And so I started in my own kitchen with product development. The salami is now sold at 5 locations in The Netherlands and more to come.
I was approached to feature in an article for a local newspaper, the journalist would write about his experience of dining at someone’s home. Title; “Architecture on your plate”. Around that same time a friend asked me to organize his private diner party and a charity dinner event. That was the start of my own catering company.
As I posted pictures and descriptions of these events on my website, people and companies started finding me online.
THE MONEY TALK
I started with zero investment, working from my own kitchen. My only costs were packaging materials and ingredients. So far my business has been small-scale, driven by passion and fun. These last 2 years I’ve fine-tuned the concept and had a lot of help from friends. Now is the time to take the next step and grow the brand “Archichef”.
Working with professional freelancers, such as my PR manager, has helped this process. I need skilled people to push my company to the next level.
Money remains a challenge, I still work from one event to the next. I built Archichef whilst working part-time just to be able to have some stability in my income. But I was recently able to quit my part-time barista job. And this year I am planning to set up a crowd funding initiative to grow Archichef further.
THE TOUGH TIMES
I am responsible for all facets of the business; from cooking, product design to building a website but also sales and finance. I’ve had to learn a lot.
Separating my private and work life can be hard, especially in the beginning when my kitchen doubled as my office!
To grow from an artisan company to a business you need a different skill-set. Getting the right people on board is key, with skills I lack as well as financial support.
5 INSIDER TIPS
Don’t commit to a workspace if you don’t yet have the financial resources. I started using the kitchen of a restaurant when it was closed on Sunday and Monday. Those have become my production days.
Know your strengths and get the right people in to help you with the rest. That’s how you take your idea from a hobby to a business.
Your network is important. Use it.
Open your mind to new opportunities. I combined two things that seemed worlds apart. Your past does not have to determine your future.
Get your brand out there! You need other people to make this happen. A brand is team work!
Written by Eleni Meraki
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She is a hypnotherapist, mind-trainer, coach and creator of the women’s coaching program Be Your Own Muse. She helps women become clear, confident and courageous to be and live true to themselves.