Get out of townGiapo
So I guess this is sort of embarrassing, I interviewed Gianpaolo well over 8 months ago, and there have been a few comments recently along the lines of ‘too much eating Beth, not enough greeting’. Yeah yeah, ok Fair call, but it's been some good eating the last few months (Loretta, what up!). So maybe some of you will be surprised by this, but Eat & Greet does not make any money (I get asked this all the time), it’s purely for the love of it. Which I really do...love it. I get nothing from those I interviews, except usually I'll walk away with a new best friend! And that is enough for me, but my god, it’s a lot of work. the good news is I’ve pulled in a new recruit (more on that at a later date) and I’ve got a few posts up my sleeve.
So I give you the most life changing interview to date (got to start off with a bang right!) - Gianpaolo Grazioli of Giapo. Willy Wonka may have had a whole factory but Gianpaolo creates just as much magic and whimsy from his tiny little shop in Auckland. I sat down with Gianpaolo and walked away enlightened (and with a new best friend of course!). There is no other way to describe this man than an as artist, and ice cream is his medium. He is on a whole other level, that you and I can only dream of. In fact I was kind of embarrassed by my standard list of questions, but he’s also the most humble, genuine, intelligent and personable human you’ll ever meet. Maybe that’s the key to his 10,000 followers on Twitter, not some special social media ‘guru’ secret.
So Gianpaolo and I chatted over coffee and what started out as a very normal interview ended with some next level shit...
When did you come to NZ?
Eleven years ago.
What made you come here?
I was on holiday, it was February, it was sunny and warm and it was beautiful. I said ‘I’m going to stay here because I love this country’.
Why did you decide to open an ice cream shop, did you see a gap in the market?
There was no gap in the market, the market was saturated and now it is even more saturated. But every time somebody does something that is worth believing in, then the market for it is unlimited. My approach to what I do is spiritual. It is what I was born to do and I have to do it to the best of my ability. Tomorrow my ice cream will be better than it was yesterday. That is why we don’t make any money, we lose money everyday. The way we do it, there is no way I can make money. Not because we waste it, because what we are trying to achieve through ice cream is unsustainable, it is an expression of my soul. In Auckland, New Zealand it is proving unsustainable. Sooner or later we will have to close.
What is your biggest challenge?
We live in a world where everything we buy, it’s supposed to cost the same as it did 10 years ago. Our world is dictated by commodities we have no control over, like oil and gold. Wages grow slower than inflation does. So if the cost of a coffee is the same as it was five years ago it means that every year the barista is losing 3% on the coffee. That is the world we live in. People are not prepared to pay what the food is worth.
Do you feel there is a changing attitude to food and especially an appreciation gourmet food?
No. What is happening is a structural change to how food is helping us in our lives. Today for most of the population food is still fuel. But food is taking over people’s minds, they don’t care about organic or sustainable food, they care about the famous chef they saw in the magazine. Which is great for us in the food industry, it’s a renaissance. We are now in fashion. Nigella, Rick Stein and The Food Channel have made food famous. Food is becoming glamorous. So I see it as a positive thing.
Do you think it is just a trend or here to stay?
Who knows, but it started seven years ago with the Spain phenomenon. Three or four main restaurants in the same area of Spain, all the best in the world. Ferran Adrià started something that will be remembered long after he’s gone. He has changed the way we think about food. He started a movement, the renaissance. He was the first person to go further, he was the Leonardo, he changed everything. He made food something special, and for that we must thank him.
Do you have other people in your life that have influenced you?
All chefs that do this work and get no recognition. Which is 99.9999% of them, which is the paradox of this beautiful renaissance. There are millions of chefs that feed us every single day and they never get any thanks and they do the hard part.
Do you have trouble finding ingredients?
Of course yes, at the start we were looking for very local, very New Zealand ingredients and it took us a while to have a good list of farmers we could call on who were reliable and 100% organic.
So that is why you started your co-op?
Definitely, it is a very successful model. Customers drop off the fruit from their backyard and we reward them with ice cream!
Did you come up with that idea yourself?
I did, because we are living in the age of the crowd. Chefs need to keep up with the times and see how they can take advantage of those things. I’m very proud of it.
What do you miss about Italy?
I believe Italy is the most beautiful country in the world and I miss everything about it.
Then why did you move here?!
Because it is a mess, because nothing works. Because it is not safe. Those ruthless economic policies have brought the whole country to [it's] knees. New Zealand is the second most beautiful country, but the history does not compare to Italy. Nature-wise though, you win. I fell in love with that.
What is your favourite dish you like to cook on a day off?
It is a simple dish of spaghetti with fresh tomato, olive oil and garlic.
Where do you eat in Auckland?
What ingredients could you not live without?
Eggs and Chocolate. If you gave me either of those I could make hundreds, no thousands of things. And for me, those are the two most important ingredients for what I do. Chocolate is amazing, in a hundred years we’ll still be eating it the same way we make it now.
Vivid memory of food from childhood?
My grandmother. Both of my parents were working so my brothers and I grew up with my grandmother. She was an old fashioned Italian grandmother, like you see in so many movies. Amazing with food, I remember fettuccine with bolognese sauce after school, it was the best ever.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to change it. I dont want to expand, I don’t want to franchise. I’ve been offered loads of ways to make money, but I still haven’t found one I like. So I’m still losing money but I’m proud of it, because I’m doing something that I love. It is a way for me to express my art. As long as I can make do, there is no rush to find new business ways.
But personally, my dream is to get my fourth degree, I’ve studied economics, transportation and science. Now I would like to study how to create super harmonies. An idea that is pretty much only in my imagination, they are the conjunction of two existing harmonies to create a super harmony.
So is it a bit like in physics when two frequencies combine and are intensified?
Exactly, they get extra strength.
So instead with the senses?
Yes, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching, two harmonies coming together to make a super harmony. But not everything you hear can be paired with what you eat. Like coffee and milk, it is a harmony, but it might not necessarily go with a certain harmonious music or perfume.
Is that how you approach your ice cream?
Well, no, that is my approach to life. I am curious. I am a very interested person, I don’t know if I’m interesting but I’m certainly interested in what happens around me.
So you use ice cream as vehicle to explore these discoveries?
Every single one of us in this eight billion person planet of ours, we were all born to find meaning. The question I ask myself every day is, why was I born? What is the meaning? Then I found ice cream, and every day I try and find a way I can advance the human race further... in icecream.
I think that is a very noble cause!
Giapo, 279 Queen Street, Auckland
(09) 550 3677