I am an early riser and I usually start the day with a glass of milk, sometimes fruit, sometimes salami. I check the news and my emails while my daughter gets ready. After I’ve taken her to school I go straight to work. My “work” is my “passion” – it’s my hobby. I’m lucky and I usually can’t wait to go to work.
I go straight to the curing cells to check on the salami. These days Italian technology is such that I can check on the cells from the computer and I’ll get alerts if something out of the ordinary happens. But still, checking on the salami and seeing with my own eyes is what I prefer to do.
It’s still quiet in the office by the time I get to my desk so I can get a lot of work done – more emails, sometimes paperwork. By 9am, I’m deep in meetings with the production department and sales people.
Some days it’s all research & development. A new salami idea or experiment might come from an ingredient, a suggestion or a request. This is the most fun part of my job because to me this is like play. Everything I know I learned from my father in Italy – salami making has been in the family since the 1600s. The only difference is that I now use a variety of different ingredients. Since coming to the US, I’ve been able to try different ingredients that I would not have thought of or come across in Italy. I just released a salami made with a microbrew oatmeal stout. Right now, I am experimenting with wild game and a variety of cheese.
Sometimes the production and packaging crew will get me to see if a salami is ready to be released. I will then taste some samples we pull from each batch. I evaluate it for colour, smell, taste and other criteria. Once I give the OK we send it to packaging. We work in small batches so that we can keep some control. Machines can be very precise; computers are great, but in the end I trust skilled people to determine if the salami we make in small batches are good.
While I’m doing this, I’m always checking the curing and drying cells. I examine the mold bloom – mold is scary to some people but it is very important to salami making. It protects the salami and develops a lot of flavour. Our salami’s mold is natural – we don’t spray it or dip it to create the beautiful fluffy whiteness.
If there’s something that can be fixed – a different temperature in one curing cell, more humidity in another – we work to move the salami and fix the conditions until it’s perfect.
Then I take lunch at around noon in my office. My wife Silvia is an amazing cook. My lunch date is usually my dad. Even though he is in Italy, we eat together everyday thanks to Skype. When I eat lunch, it’s time for his dinner (Italy is eight hours ahead) and we talk about my day. I ask him about some issues I might be having with the salami. He always has answers. He experienced it all and has solutions. If he hasn’t, he knows of someone else in the family who did. The memory and knowledge is all there. He is my real-life Wikipedia.
When there’s a new recipe, I like to go to the spice room to work on a new mixture or blend. This is also when I taste new batches of classic flavours or debut a new flavour to see what everyone in the office might think. When there are a few people around, it’s also nice to develop some pairings – whether with wine, beer or cheese. In Italy, we eat salami everyday, it’s a part of life. So it makes sense to see what other good things salami can go with.
I travel a lot for work and when I do I meet a lot of people at specialty stores, distributors and customer who buy from all of them. Sometimes I’m even invited to talk about my work at food festivals like Cochon 555 and even judge food competitions. I’m always impressed by the talent of the people in the food industry.
I usually leave around 4 or 5pm and stop off to pick up ingredients for more research & development. Today I will go to the wine store to pick up a very specific Barolo for the salami.
When I get home I like to relax with my family. On weekends we get together with a lot of our French and Italian friends and always eat and drink too much. But life is too short. You have to enjoy it.