Tasty: Leonardo Carbonara

Published 16 February 2012 05:11, Updated 16 February 2012 09:22

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When Leonardo Carbonara, founder of sauce maker Dorina Fine Foods, decided to start a business, he looked to tap into his heritage by going to his native Argentina for business ideas.

The trip at first proved fruitless, until he realised he had something in plain sight. “People were making chimichurri sauce to eat with the meat in traditional Argentinian meals,” he says. “That was how I had the inspiration to start in Australia.”

In 2009, he started selling chimichurri to delicatessens, cafes, butchers, supermarkets and speciality food outlets. Chimichurri is a sauce or marinade made of ingredients such as vinegar, parsley and spices. He says Australians are unusually open to cuisines from different parts of the world.

“The latest wave is Spanish and South American food,” he says. “I reckon that should last for the next 10 years.”

His business method is based on the artisanal style popular in southern Europe and parts of South America in which the food is made by hand using local ingredients. It is similar to the slow food movement that is gaining popularity in Italy, France and Spain. He says Australian retailers are starting to understand the approach.

“Artisanal business is very different to the mass-marketed method,” he says. “Each batch is slightly different and there’s an emphasis on achieving a distinctive taste. That makes it quite different to mechanised ways of producing food, which usually involves artificial additives.”

The challenge for artisanal food makers, he says, is to have similar pricing to mass-produced versions of the product.

“Artisanal food is, or should be, of a higher quality, more like what you get in a restaurant,” he says. “But the pricing needs to be similar to the machine-made versions to get reasonable levels of demand. That’s the challenge for artisanal food makers the world over. Consumers notice the difference in the taste but it has to be the right price for them.”

Specialty supermarkets are beginning to have sections dedicated to artisanal food and Carbonara says there is increasing interest being shown by the major supermarket chains. But he believes there is some way to go before artisanal food has the popularity in enjoys in Latin countries.

“There’s a different attitude to food making which is only just starting to be appreciated here,” he says. “It’s very much about craft.”

He says the biggest advantage in selling artisanal foods is the willingness of consumers to try new kinds of food and Australia’s high levels of post-World War II migration has profoundly affected the cuisine, especially in the capital cities.

“There are few places in the world that have such variety in food,” he says. “I don’t think it’s fully appreciated by Australians just how diverse it is here. And you get some blending of the cuisines of different regions, which is also unusual.”

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