Companies are made by people. Therefore, the floor to the TEAM!
Great examples of success from the present and the past have instilled in us a culture of emotional connection: people don’t become attached to brands or products, but with names and faces. Generations of brilliant people dressed up in sweaters and blue jeans have made the fortunes of their companies, and it would be difficult to think of their products without associating them with their faces. This law applies in other circumstances as well. We don’t want to simply buy great products or work from important companies; we also want to see our names associated with brands and products made by inspiring people.
We still don’t know if we’ll become like the gurus who inspired us. And, by the way, we like colorful clothes instead of black sweaters. Yet, we understand the importance of creating an emotional bond and a transparent relation not only with the people we serve, but also with those cultures that we represent. After all, we always talk about sharing experiences and creating relationships through food, but how would it be possible to empathize with people you don’t know anything about?
Today, ChinEAT gets rid of the mask and takes the lid off. The stories already shared – and new ones still to come – all root in the real lives of our team, that we’re gonna present to you in this article. They represent the soul of ChinEAT, because our company is first of all made by people, and we want ChinEAT to be the sum of all our experiences.
This is also our way to get you involved and bring you within the walls of ChinEAT. The team is bigger and there will be space in the future to introduce all the other members. Consider this panel interview as a first step to shrink the distance between us and you all, while also sharing a few anecdotes about ourselves and lots of “behind the scenes” of ChinEAT.
Without further ado, let us present our team! We picked a few people from every department of ChinEAT and interviewed them for you. Let’s discover who they are and what their role is in our big family. Floor to the team!
Gianluca Luisi – aka Mala Luka, CEO and Founder
“If passion was the currency of the XXI century, I would be extremely rich”
- Gianluca! Let’s start with you, the person who started all this. Please, share your story with us!
Many thanks to the panel for this interview.
I’d start from my own roots. I come from a very small town in the south of Italy. Since young I set my horizons very wide. I wanted to become an astronaut, the only way for me to truly understand the universe. I guess I did not get that far but I still enjoy travelling around space with the power of imagination and thoughts.
After turning 18 I moved to London, where I enrolled at the University of Westminster for my Bachelor’s in International Business. I had to pick up a foreign language to study along with my course. I searched on the internet for the toughest language on earth, Chinese came up. That is how I ended up learning about China, and eventually falling in love with this culture.
ChinEAT was the natural result of me looking for a medium to communicate and talk about China to my friends and to the world, without having to get into complex and sometimes boring historical explanations. I thought food could be a great tool for uniting people on some common grounds, the very foundations of civilization.
- Since you already introduced ChinEAT, would you tell us what being the Founder is about? What’s your role inside the company?
I try to fill in the gaps as we are still on the start-up stage of this project, but I tend to keep myself busy with keeping the vision on the right track, while developing products, recipes, and marketing campaigns. ChinEAT is growing a lot but we shall never give up on being and looking human, that means keeping personal and strong relations with our partners worldwide.
- And don’t forget executive chef and starring actors! Remind the readers that you’re also the face in many promotional videos.
But going back to ChinEAT, in the three years since its birth, are you proud of this project?
This project now has its own identity, and I have many precious memories that keep me emotionally connected to ChinEAT. For instance, coming up with the name and the logo.
And, you see, we often talk about what we do in and for the ChinEAT, but seldom refer to what ChinEAT does for us, the people. In particular, I love the fact that ChinEAT has actually been able to create jobs, and also to create a vision that is now attracting talents from all around the world.
To answer your question. Yes, I’m very proud. But this is just the beginning. We aim to become the leading Chinese condiments brand outside China, keeping our authentic DNA while bringing in our own ideas and innovations along the motto: Taste of China 2.0. Challenges are keeping pace with innovation, food is constantly evolving together with societies, and we want to stay focused in embracing the values for more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and healthy concepts.
- Thanks for this answer, Gianluca. We leave you with this very last question. ChinEAT came out with this motto: “Connecting the dots between you and authentic Chinese cuisine”. How would you explain it to our friends?
There is a huge gap between authentic Chinese food and the outside world. Chinese food overseas is often portrayed with stereotypes and myths that are completely disconnected with the foundations of this millenary food culture. The dots here are the steps we are making in getting our audience closer to the authenticity of this food culture. The “you” here wants to align our team’s efforts in addressing the needs of our community when talking about Chinese food. We try to do this by staying connected with our audience, keeping these interactions at a human-to-human level.
This is what we believe in and seek to realize. Many thanks!
Noelle Yang, Business Developer and Cultural Communicator
“Chongqing girls, never give up!”
- Our second guest is Noelle! And we will start with a brief introduction if you agree.
Yes. Well, I’d start by saying that my name might confuse some of you, but I’m actually a native of Chongqing. Needless to say, I have a proverbial passion for spicy food in general, from chilli sauces to our local hot pot.
Chop-chop, I met Spicy Luca by chance and joined this lovely team that we now call ChinEAT. Shortly after, I eventually found here the role that best suits me as a Business Developer and Cultural Communicator. And that’s all, I guess.
- Many thanks. But we would like to focus for a moment on one aspect. You’re Chinese and you’re also in charge of cultural communication. That means you actually play a key role in this big picture, and we assume you to be more committed than others to delivering the right messages about the culinary tradition you represent.
It’s a big responsibility. But I love my job. In particular, I like the fact that I’m constantly in touch with many different people all over the world and can always learn new views on Chinese cuisine. It’s wrong to assume that we want to impose our understanding of Chinese food to our customers. My job, in fact, is the result of this sort of clash between different ideas and perceptions, after which new food concepts can be developed. What we strive to present our clients is the exact taste they’re looking for, there’s no arguing with that. And it is always a pleasure to see them joining us to spread the taste of China.
- Thanks, Noelle! At this point two last customary questions and we’re done here. First, how does the motto of ChinEAT translate into your own terms? And what you think will be your future challenges?
I think that “Connecting the dots…” represents the daily life of ChinEAT. In particular, our R&D department and our partners all work together to spread the authentic Chinese taste worldwide to make it easier for worldwide consumers to have access to the authentic flavors of China.
Of course, I think the challenge is to meet the needs of mainstream and overseas Chinese at the same time. We teach mainstream consumers step by step what authentic Chinese taste is. I have great faith that authentic Chinese tastes will become more and more popular all over the world in the future.
Brandon Berardo, Business Development Manager
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
- Now, it’s the turn of Brandon. Brandon, you come from the US, but you’re currently working in Chongqing for ChinEAT as a Business Development Manager. Would you tell us what brought you here in China?
The reason roots back to my studies. I was a Chinese major at the university and as a requirement for graduation we had to study in China for at least one semester. After traveling to China for the first time and experiencing what it was like to form connections with other people in a foreign country using a foreign language, I fell in love with the culture and the people of China. That is when I decided to return there after graduation. Upon completing my service with the Peace Corps, I finally found the opportunity I was looking for. I met Luca by chance and learned about the goal of ChinEAT. I joined without hesitation.
- Could you explain to us what your job in the Business Development department is about?
As a Business Development Manager, I am responsible for the sales of ChinEAT. Here I found the opportunity to put my knowledge of the American market to good use, helping ChinEAT finally reach out with Chinese food passionately all around the United States.
- Ok, let us get this straight. So, in our understanding there’s this growing demand for more authentic Chinese food out there. But having the object of desire is just half of the battle. One shall also make this encounter between demand and supply to actually take place. And that’s where you come in, Brandon. Is this right?
You’re right! Our department is focused on finding the right customers for our products and ensuring that these products reach the largest number of people possible to share authentic Chinese flavors with those who may not have had the opportunity to try them before.
It’s a difficult task, indeed. But very rewarding. For instance, seeing our products being sold in my home country for the first time because of my efforts in finding clients in the US was a big milestone for me. It was the first time that I was able to witness the tangible results of all the hard work I had been putting in for months.
My favorite part of my current job is using my ability to build relationships with people to form connections and find ways in which we can work together to reach the same goal. Ultimately sales are more about building relationships than it is about selling products. I have learned that through forging strong relationships with people you are able to create the most valuable and successful business opportunities.
- This is a very interesting interpretation of your job. You mentioned concepts like “relationship” or “connection”. So, we assume that the motto “Connecting the dots” might have a special meaning for you, doesn’t it?
Absolutely. As a country which is often misunderstood overseas due to misrepresentation in mainstream media as well as its late opening up to the world, China has many rich treasures yet to be discovered by people around the world. As people who have experienced all of the beautiful things China has to offer, I feel I am now partly responsible for sharing these unique things with others around the world who either have a complete lack of understanding or have a severe misunderstanding of these things. Beautiful things are meant to be shared, after all. And Chinese food is one of them.
For me, therefore, connecting the dots is all about sharing China’s culinary heritage with the world. By sharing experiences with other people, you create a precedent, a connection that didn’t exist before. It’s then up to them to deepen that relation, or simply move on.
- We can’t help but agree with you. Misrepresentation creates a negative perception of “diversity”. Diversity shouldn’t be something negative; diversity is richness. Otherwise, the world would be a boring place. Don’t you agree?
Indeed. But despite our eagerness to share these flavors with people around the world and our passion for how amazing these foods are, it seems that there might still be large groups of people who are not yet ready to expand their palates to explore these new flavors yet. As a result, some consumers may choose to continue to eat things they are comfortable with instead of taking a risk and trying something new. No matter how passionate we are or how good our products are, the market must learn to accept these types of products before they can truly be successful.
Felix Yi, Media Manager
“运是成功者的谦辞” (= Luck is a humble word for success)
- Let’s now talk with Felix, our Media Manager. Please Felix, introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is , but all my friends know me as Felix. I studied movies and videos making skills at university and, since then, I’ve been working in the media industry.
I’m a food lover as all the others here, and I’ve always been fond of food photography and video making. They say, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” So, when I knew ChinEAT was looking for a media manager to join their mission of spreading Chinese food culture, I immediately stepped up.
- That’s nice. You had a passion and found a place that let you free to pursue it by doing the things you enjoy the most. What’s the part you like the most about your job?
Well, I’ve already mentioned that food media content is my passion. This is already a point in favor. But I also find it amazing that my passion is actually important for someone. I mean, the videos I make are an important vehicle for authentic Chinese culture to reach a broader audience. And people seem to like them. And they want more!
And I think it is essential to satisfy this demand. But media contents are not different from any other product; you need to introduce variety and originality. That’s why we keep sharing new ideas and designing new formats, like more conversational videos about food culture. So that our audience can always find the type of content he or she is willing to watch at that moment.
- “Connecting the dots between you and authentic Chinese cuisine”, could you explain how this motto finds a place in what you do?
Personally, I think that in my case connecting the dots refers to delivering the right message about Chinese food. You know, we are offered several ways to convey a message, but we have to find the exact path to better spread this culture. Most of the time, this translates into showing, with images or videos, what Chinese food actually looks like. And why not? Perhaps also showing that many stories about my food and my people don’t correspond to reality.
But this is also a very challenging part. Because to deliver a message, you need someone to actually give ear. As a content creator mainly on YouTube, together with other media platforms, my biggest challenge in the future is undoubtedly expanding our community and reaching as many people as possible.>
- ChinEAT is expanding its coverage of all the socials and constantly coming out with always new contents. But you seem to have more ambitious plans. Have you already set a goal?
I’m not satisfied yet. Why should we stop? I’m aiming at 1 million followers for our YouTube channel! Ahahah!
Laura Rizzo – aka糖醋劳拉, Project Manager and Social Media Manager
“Hungry people always tell the truth”
- Here you are, Laura! You’re the final member that we are going to interview today. First of all, we’d like to ask you more about yourself, especially the past. Because here we read that your bond with China stretches far back in time.
Yes, it’s always a pleasure to dig up the past. And you’re right.
I was born in a little town in Puglia, South of Italy. But I’ve always spent a lot of time abroad. My first encounter with Chinese culture happened in Italy, when I started my studies at the Orientale, Naples, the oldest school of Chinese studies in Europe. But the real watershed moment was when I applied for a university in Tianjin and finally could experience China first-hand. And this was also when food has become an important aspect of my life. I found Chinese food a fantastic social glue, and if it were not for those warm dinners in good company, I would have never met all my friends.
- So that was your epiphany. The moment when you decided you’d have worked with food.
No, not yet. I moved again, first to Shanghai and finally to Chongqing, where I took part in an Internship at the Italian Consulate. In that same consulate I met Gianluca Luisi, who I consider my mentor. But ChinEAT came only three years later. Yes, because after my internship I left China again. This time for Rome, where I attended another Master’s in International Business with the Italian Trade Agency.
It was after my graduation that I received that fateful call. It was Gianluca, he asked me “Laura, wanna join ChinEAT? We do food. Chinese food for the world”.
I’ll stop here. But you can guess how that ended up. I’m happy about my decision. My life finally took sense.
- This is very interesting, because your profile, together with those of the others give this impression of an organization internally very diverse and dynamic. Where many young people can find their own place and role. What about you, then? What do you do in ChinEAT?
I have fingers in many pies. I like to deal with different activities because I don’t like repetitive tasks. And I’m usually happy to mess things up a little bit. I like big changes, and one single title or role does not define me well. I like to define myself the co-founder, or the “阿姨” (= aunty) of ChinEAT. Because I’m not exactly its mother – Gianluca is. When I first met ChinEAT, I was born and dressed up already. But I’ve witnessed its growth, from a few months to a three-years-old child. And I’m satisfied to see it growing healthy and with good principles.
That said, I obviously play official roles for the Company. Initially as a Project Manager, now also in charge of Marketing.
- It looks like despite the existence of different roles and departments, there’s always a file rouge, a common purpose that unites you all. And this is creating a connection with your people outside.
Absolutely. If ChinEAT really wants to reach out with people, it needs a voice. Every member brings his or her contribution to this cause in their very personal way. Talking to people outside, meeting them, and organizing activities and events online and offline, that’s what I do.
I feel like I’m creating a bond between Chinese food and the world and I’m never tired of it. Chinese food now has a voice. I never became a singer, but at least I found a good purpose for my voice.
- You’re actually one of the people who worked on the slogan of ChinEAT. So, we would be interested to know what you were thinking when you figured out this sentence?
Okay, let’s pretend we are outsiders, and we are presented with the menu of a Chinese restaurant. And maybe you find 狮子头shīzitóu, that is generally translated as Lion’s head meatballs. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
- Well, if we were not that deep into Chinese food we’d probably think “Hey, what? It’s made with lions?”
Exactly! Mistake after mistake, all these literary translations have imposed this idea that now Chinese people eat lions or other strange stuff. ChinEAT seeks exactly to find the best way, the proper metaphor, for you to easily understand what that dish is about. That’s why we came out with a motto that could represent this idea of a mediator, a bridge between people and authentic Chinese dishes.>
- Create clarity, enhance understanding. These seem to be big challenges.
Every day is a challenge. ChinEAT is a wonderful child. It will grow up well and make its way on its own!
- Many thanks for your time, Laura. And many thanks to all the other colleagues who dedicated some of their time for these interviews. We greet our readers, hoping they found these conversations entertaining and stimulating. Most importantly, I hope we were able to deliver even just a bit of the sense of warmth and humanity that these walls transmit. Once again, ChinEAT is first of all made of people.
That said, we invite our readers to join the conversation and contact us for more questions and curiosities. We’re done here, ciao!