Founder & Managing Director, Arcadia Fine Foods
Tell us about yourself.
As a lover of both foods and cultures from around the world, I believe that food offers us much more than just a means of sustenance; to me, it’s also a vehicle through which we can tell the unique stories of the land, as well as the people and traditions from which it’s borne. In turn, it helps us to connect more deeply with others. Having spent my childhood in New Zealand and much of my adult life in Thailand, I have a connection to land and nature. This feeling intensified and became the seed from which Arcadia Fine Foods would grow. I founded the company as a way to both discover these stories for myself and to share them with others.
How did Arcadia Fine Foods start?
It was during a long weekend in Italy, off the back of a business trip to London, that Arcadia really started sprouting. A friend of mine introduced me to an incredible winemaker in Tuscany, whose sincere and infectious passion for his work (“my job is to sell happiness”, he would say) made me realise I wanted to be in the food and wine business, too. So, I returned to Thailand, quit my job–ending an 11-year tenure–and moved to Italy!
I had no other plan in mind other than I wanted to create a business that would unite my passions: beautiful foods, wines, cultures and sustainability. With an apartment in a 500-year-old Florentine palazzo as my base, during three months, I travelled across seven regions of Italy with the goal of understanding the country’s food and wine landscape. Lugging my 30kg suitcase of food and wine samples with me, I travelled the country from the very north in Piedmonte, right down to a tiny island in the South, from which I could see the coast of Africa. Eventually, I returned home and created Arcadia.
What is your role and day-to-day responsibilities at Arcadia?
I’m the Founder and Managing Director. As a start-up company it means I do a bit of everything. There are four main areas of business on which you’ll catch me multitasking. First, it’s the curation and promotion of unique food and wine products. I’m constantly on the search for unique organic, biodynamic and sustainable foods and wines of the highest quality, and I work with both like-minded importers and suppliers to bring our customers beautiful products with intriguing stories. Second, it’s creating events. Through events we bring together and support like-minded, passionate people. Thirdly, it’s developing educational programmes. In another life, I spent over a decade in consulting, during which I co-founded and led the PwC Sustainability & Climate Change practice and Sustainability Academy in Thailand. I continue to promote awareness and understanding around food and sustainability in my new role and work with our extensive networks of winemakers, artisans, and experts to deliver high-quality food and wine educational experiences focused on organic, biodynamic and natural production methods. Finally, it’s making (little) movies. In the world of quality food and wine–and not least in the organic, biodynamic and sustainable segment–I believe that storytelling is key to conveying the true value of products and their ingredients. I work with a talented group of cinematographers and film producers to tell the stories of these products–whether our own, or those of others.
Why are biodynamic wines important? And organic chocolate?
In both cases, they are restoring our harmony with nature–whether through their production and consumption or their intriguing stories. Being in balance with nature is not only better for the environment and our physical and mental health, but also, importantly, our tastebuds (well, where there are talented producers involved, at least–but, you see, that’s where Arcadia’s careful curations comes to the rescue!).
We’re looking forward to adding more products to our collection–from across the world–but right now we’re not in a major rush, as quality curation and community-building is our focus.
You organise events. Can you tell us about past and upcoming projects?
In collaboration with Arcadia Fine Foods, Simone Sabaini, Sicilian chocolate-maker and proprietor of the highly-regarded SABADÌ organic Modica chocolate brand, made a very special appearance at About Eatery last December. He gave a lecture on the centuries-old history and process of chocolate-making in Modica, Sicily–and how he set out to revive the tradition with his own modern twist. Giulio Saverino, sommelier and manager of About Eatery, then introduced some carefully selected organic wine pairings–which participants subsequently had the chance to experience. Participants then had the opportunity to discuss their tasting experience with Simone and Giulio.
For the second edition of Arcadia Private Tastings in May, we were delighted to collaborate with the wonderful team at Mighty Private Dining (MPD)–a very special new venue giving their unique twist on the dining experience. Indeed, it’s currently one of the city’s ‘best-kept secrets’–but not for long!
Surrounded by mysterious antiques from around the world, on this occasion, guests had the chance to discover an exclusive curation of our very own best-kept secrets: some beautiful ‘hidden gem’ biodynamic and organic wines. We also welcomed a very special guest speaker for this evening: Mr. Mirco Caretti of Bellavista Winery, producer of the finest biodynamic Franciacorta–and partner to the reknowned Italian opera house Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
On the 13 June, Arcadia brought together a seemingly unlikely marriage of tastes. There was Baladin, one of Italy’s leading craft beers, originating in Piedmont–and Sabadì, a unique natural chocolate produced in Sicily, with a history extending back to the Aztecs. The session began with an introduction to Baladin and its role in shaping the craft beer industry of Italy–and also to Sabadi and the unique history and properties of its Modica Chocolates. Guests were invited to participate in an interactive tasting of 5 pairings of Baladin beers and Sabadi Modica Chocolates–whereby each beer and chocolate was carefully selected to bring the best out of the other.
Where are your favourite places in Bangkok to find organic produce and ingredients?
Gourmet Market for a diverse and interesting selection of local and international products; the Bangkok Farmers’ Markets for local produce; Amantée for organic breads, and Radiance wholefoods for specialist ingredients. I’m also happy to see that Tesco and Tops Market now even have dedicated shelves for organic produce. This is encouraging to see, finally. The only frustrating thing is that it’s kind of hard to find truly delicious fine foods and wines that are also organic. Arcadia tries to bring it all together–for ourselves, and you! That’s the company’s goal.
What does the future in Thailand look like for organic?
I think it’s bright–although there may be a long road ahead. There’s a lot of energy and innovation around organic agriculture in Thailand, but obstacles too. There appears to be a prevailing lack of trust in local organic certifications–as well as small producers lacking the wherewithal to go through a certification process in the first place. However, I personally think all that’s a bit beside the point, actually. In my view, the point is for all of us to just take a step in the right direction by taking our own responsibility for who we buy from, and what we eat. Over time, we need to better educate ourselves in what we purchase and from where. Thailand–and Bangkok in particular–does appear to be moving in the right direction and as more outlets stock and promote organic, then the more the message will begin to sink in. As individuals, we should be getting curious, connecting with others, asking the right questions, doing our own research, and getting to know our producers–personally, if possible.
And, indeed, that’s what Arcadia and its community is all about. By researching and sourcing the very finest organic and sustainable products, we hope to not only educate customers, but to offer them delicious produce–whether wine, chocolate or other delicious treats–introducing the consumer to organic foods and products, each with their own unique story to tell.
Interview by David J. Constable