C41 Questions On with Domenico Bianco: Life and Reactions after Covid-19

Questions On is a video interview format created by C41. Three are the ‘simple’ questions asked to our network friends, partners and creative minds. They tackle the current situation: How do they see their future, what kind of changes do they expect and how they are going to react to this unusual situation that we are living these days?

The eighth episode is with Domenico Bianco, co-founder of Puglia Kitchen. An authentic dining and cooking experience for a real taste of Puglia; a celebration of tradition, culture, flavours from his beloved region. Domenico Bianco was born and raised on his family farm in the region and has inherited a lifelong passion for natural, fresh food & local fare and its importance to live life to the fullest.

You can watch the interview on the C41 YouTube channel and also read it below.

1. Future — How do you feel about your future when everything will be back to normal?

Talking about the future, the future is behind me; this is an olive tree inside the property of my parents, of their farmhouse where I grew up and where Puglia Kitchen has been implanted because what we do is to bring with us the products of the company or even the products of companies close to us. At the moment I consider myself lucky because unlike many who are closed at home due to the pandemic I can be in the company working because we produce agricultural products, oil, cheese, milk which are considered some of those activities that today can be open and function.

Today, more than ever, we understand the importance of being able to work, because not only work is a reason for sustenance, but work in a certain sense is also a reason for freedom, a reason for expression and for us that we do it with passion, love and an informed choice, work means being free to express ourselves and having a voice in the market, in society and in life. Speaking of the future, going back to the question of the future, when I said that the future is behind me, it’s because I’m revisiting in these months, in these weeks of quarantine with my half, the other co-founder of Puglia Kitchen, Francesca my wife, looking at a new, different future. First of all we want to look towards a future where we can do without many ephemeral and useless things, that seem to be useless to us and that until yesterday seemed to be essential. Today, that we are able to live with less instead, or with something simpler, we are starting to realize that even what we do as Puglia Kitchen can really reflect this. Therefore, going back and giving more value to the family business, making the family business weigh more in what we do and to be able to dedicate ourselves to these olive trees, to these lands, to our animals and doing it together with our relatives, my parents and maybe helping them to look at the company as something that can be spread outside the company itself and to be able to take out our products. The future will certainly be a bit marked, it will have the scars of this period; around I see people a bit sceptical who look a little afraid from afar, maybe I do it too and I do not realize it, fear of the other, fear of contagion, fear. On the other side, instead, there are people who at two meters, three meters when they meet me on the street in those few times that I can do the famous 200 meters walking around my house, greet me, greet because today we are all on the same boat and nobody is to blame for what happens, it’s something out from our control, and it’s nice and heartening to see people greeting you on the street, people you’ve never seen before, people who ask you anything; we have a little baby girl, and when they see her in my arms they ask me how old she is, and a whole series of things, they tell me that she’s beautiful and that in the future they will see her running around the house and everything else. Today it’s nice to see this, before it would have never happened because we were closed and busy inside these boxes, busy between our thoughts and our things, this of today would not have happened.

2. Change — What kind of changes will affect society, work environment and world itself?

All of this changes us and is changing the way we work, I am not only in the company at my parents’ but above all here I have my laboratory so I have the opportunity to experiment, I have the opportunity to try. What I’m doing, I’m taking back the very old dishes of our tradition, those that my mother remembers only by heart that are not written anywhere that seem really poor, without so many convoluted things, which instead today, being composed with three four ingredients, even less, you find out that they have an incredible taste. You discover that they have the taste of history, that they have a taste linked to the genuineness of the ancient and therefore surely our work changes in this sense. It changes because we want to bring, bring back, propose those things to our hopefully future customers when all this situation will be over, because the hope is that of returning trusting travels and the places where you are and one of the things that change is certainly also that of trying to work transmitting security to those who select us.

Hoping that this thing of creating safety with masks or gloves or sanitizing the surfaces does not create a redemption because that’s actually the worry, that of creating a sort of detachment, when instead one of our peculiarities not only as Puglia Kitchen but as Puglia, southern Italy, and the one we like to transmit, is sharing the empathy, the emotions of what we do. What could change, I hope it won’t, I hope it will change for the better so that it can be transmitted even more without the actual need to hug each other; and so also succeeding to convey emotion even in a video like this: Empathy, a concept that is worth considering by those who will face Puglia in the future. Many other things are changing, it was already in the answer of the future. It changes because we want to give importance to simple things, we want to surround ourselves with fewer things and above all we want to look at those invisible people who are around us and who then allow us to do our work and to be able to express ourselves, all those people that many times before we did not consider, such as the transporter who brings us cereals for the animals or those who take our products around Italy, the world, or those people we do not see, like the ones who today work in hospitals and get sick for us. I would like our job to do this, I would like that everyday we work we would be able giving more importance to all those invisible people who instead allow us to lead our lives as we lead them and who allow us to do our work well and to be able to say that our job is also our passion. Every time we say this there are these people and I would like us to really learn to value this with the change. That’s why with my partner in life and of work we want to do exactly that, being able to create something in order to collect donations, as already happened on our site, for all those activities that we do not see but that in the moment of need, you discover they exist. We had a baby girl born premature in England and they didn’t know how to behave and we discovered that there is a newborn intensive care unit for example and until that moment we didn’t know it existed, we had completely ignored it because we are always led to think that things always go well, that everything can be, but then we discovered in front of the real difficulty the existence of this department, that is a department of wonderful people who teach you how to be a parent, who teach you so many things about children that you don’t know, that you will never know when you will be home alone and so our thoughts go to them and we would like in the future, as soon as we come back to work, to dedicate a small percentage of our work to them as well as we would like to learn how to value the people who work with us who collaborate with us, who are at home right now and who punctually send us messages to know how it is going and what we plan to the future of Puglia Kitchen. For them, because they occasionally work with us, the project also thrilled them.

3. Reactions — What are your reactions to this essential process of adaptation?

The reaction we will have and that all this provokes within us, which is the immediate reaction to that? There is a reaction of adaptation to all of this, we thought we were free people, we have been free people until this moment then we discovered self detention, we had to self imprison ourselves, in quotes, at home, looking at how important those walls were for us and how important the people who share those walls with us are. We discovered that freedom really does have a value, it has a great value that perhaps everyone until 50 days ago had ignored.

The same way we have been ignoring the people who have fought for us in the past to give us that freedom. We recently celebrated the 25th of April, the liberation of Italy from the Nazi-Fascist dictatorship and until the other day it seemed only a date, but now that we are in this situation we realize how much freedom is something really important and fundamental and when it can be expressed with little. Before, in order to feel free we had to travel, we had to have something, we had to have money because we thought it would make us free. Today I realize that freedom expresses itself in a really different way and I feel honored, lucky and privileged because today I am in this land, I am in this huge field that you can see is huge, it is not huge compared to other fields that are here but for me it is huge because here I can still say “I am free”.

Today for me this becomes so much, while yesterday I was not looking at this field as I am looking at it today. I was always completely unsatisfied and looking for something without knowing what. Today I realize that this is important and I think about all those people who only have a balcony or who don’t even have that and that the 200 meters they can do around the house are a lot, they are important and I hope that once we get out of here, our adaptation to all this situation will be giving value to what we have, to what is around us and to be able to help even maybe the administrations, who governs us, who manages and administers us to help those people to make our village, our big city a beautiful place to stay and where I can say here I feel free, I have what I need here. Of course I want to travel because the moment I go out I will be culturally enriched, I will discover new things, I will discover new stories and when I come back home if I can take something with me that will enrich my community, my territory. This is the reaction and the adaptation that is happening inside me. I don’t know what’s happening inside others. Part of the adaptation is the fact that I’ve always been like Puglia Kitchen one of those always zero waste, I’ve always used everything, but today even more because of what I am realising being constantly at home, taking care of home, taking care of the house, the kitchen but with a different eye, really valuing what I have, the product I have at home, the ingredient I have at home and also the number of meals we make, giving more value to being together in front of a table, with the computer turned off the phone in offline mode, being able to ask my partner how she is? what she is doing? Looking out from that window our neighbor who is eating taking advantage of the fact that he has the balcony, he is eating out with his family giving value to those small emotions that we did not identified before.


Featuring: Domenico Bianco @pugliakitchen

Curated by Riccardo Fantoni Montana, Luca A. Caizzi, Barbara Guieu
Words: Riccardo Fantoni Montana, Stefania Zanetti
Editing: Vittoria Elena Simone
Line production: Alice De Santis
Thanks to: Alessandro De Agostini, Robin Stauder

Time to read
12 min
Words by
Riccardo Fantoni Montana
Published on
5 May 2020
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