Authentic home cooking all comes down to provenance. Creating foods rich in flavour and detail requires the finest available ingredients.
As real Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France, authentic seasonings must have ingredients sourced from their landscape of origin to ensure the fullest of flavour.
Daphnis & Chloe understand the subtleties of terroir. We sat down for a conversation about culture, origin, harvesting and keeping business authentic, both in practice and product.
Can you tell me a bit about how you got into this business?
Living in Italy for about ten years, I used to bring home bunches of aromatic herbs from my vacations in Greece, and it always surprised me how enthusiastic my friends were about this.
Italians know their food, and they know how to grow great ingredients, so to have so much interest in something they could technically produce themselves, I knew I was on to something unique and special.
Working as a journalist I thought it would be fun to do a bit of an investigation as to why these herbs were so desirable. I got in touch with a researcher friend of mine from a university here, and we discovered that much like wine, you can grow Bordeaux grapes in many locations, but it will never taste the same as Bordeaux, and this was also true for herbs.
That is so cool!
Yes, we thought so! So the same thing was happening with herbs in Greece. You can plant the same plant in three different locations and get three different results.
There are companies doing some good single estate olives, salts and wine, but no one doing something like that with herbs. I realised that most passionate foodies never had the chance to try what real Mediterranean herbs taste like, because the retail stuff available at a convenience store is produced on a big scale, in a generic way.
For us one of the biggest challenges has been how to convince small local producers, growing for a local market, harvesting just a few kilos, to increase their production without losing their authenticity.
That must be part of the fun right, meeting these small producers?
It is part of the fun but also part of the frustration. For many of our producers it is a different way of doing business, from when their parents sold at markets, but ultimately it is inspiring them to keep producing this exceptional product. It is more reliable for them than the small 2-euro sales at a market. So you get a much better product. So it is also a cultural thing.
Because you’re encouraging them to continue farm in a traditional way?
Yes, exactly. I mean the harvest is happening by hand. It is unique. They can just harvest a few kilos every day. It’s not like any other herb production available. There is almost zero mechanisation.
I mentioned the idea for this business to my friends in Italy, they were all so enthusiastic I thought “ok, let’s go for it” My partner Omar made our logo. I might have lovingly forced him into the job…
We started working with Adriana, creating the beautiful imagery, and little by little it all came together in a very organic way.
That’s a lovely way to start.
From an Asian viewpoint, the digestion side of things, with food, is so, so important. There is so much cultural history around it, why tea is drunk with meals, and the order things are consumed, so talking about these points for the Asian market is fascinating.
If you could tell me a bit about how Greek culture is unique in terms of food, and their processes of gathering food and the philosophy behind it, and how that ties in with your own philosophy.
Before we launched the business there was a lot of research undertaken into what Greek food really is. People come to Greece and think it’s all Souvlaki, Moussaka and Greek Salad.
We are a Mediterranean country, and these are elements of Greek cooking, but the truth is Greek food shares many similarities with other Mediterranean foods. They share many of the same ingredients; it is how those ingredients are interpreted that we see the differences in foods.
We essentially cook with the same ingredients the Italians and Spanish use, so what’s the difference? Traditional Greek cooking is an unwritten thing. It is passed down through generations. It is simple food, relying on fresh locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. It could be described as peasant food, the food people eat outside the main centres.
Up until very recently Greece was a landscape where you had the fisherman who would head out in the morning, from their village, to go fishing and they were taking a loaf of bread from home, stopping on their way and grab a couple of pears from the tree, and that would make lunch. Thinking about that I concluded that this “unknown kitchen” which is so simple, and so unsophisticated in one sense, is in fact the key to incredible cooking.
The other thing that I realised, at the time this was the norm people were eating this way because of a lack of resources, but today people are embracing this style of eating because of a lack of time. They will buy a piece of nice cheese, or put together simple pasta. Of course there are people who want to spend a weekend in the kitchen, but they’re the minority.
It’s really a minority!
Yes, and I find a lot of inspiration from this. I source local articles, small print run books from local island libraries about historical farming traditions and their preservation. It’s not easy sourcing this information, but it’s so valuable.
It is fascinating. I do love that it’s a gourmet menu, picked from street, from the garden, from the surroundings.
There is this typical recipe from Northern Greece, which is simply Octopus, all different spices and a fruit like an apple. I’m not sure I’ve seen this kind of fruit anywhere else, like a really large apple.
I don’t know if I’ve even seen this fruit before.
Perhaps it is a typical Mediterranean fruit, so maybe it doesn’t grow anywhere else, but the interesting thing is they were making this dish because potatoes had not arrived in Greece yet! There were no potatoes here until maybe 100 years ago, so traditional Greek cooking has no potato.
I love that, the alternative to potatoes.
Could you tell me a little about the processes of sourcing and harvesting your products?
We get herbs from all across Greece. Some of the things we consider when selecting a supplier is whether their region is an area where the plant performs best. So we are doing the opposite from what a lot of companies do. A bigger spice company look for producers of products they want in their range and look for the best price or the greatest volume. Terrian and origin are the least of their concerns, which it the opposite for us. We are diligent in our research, and have been known to call local pubs on a tip that there is someone in their village that grows Oregano and does the publican know whom that person might be!
Yeah, exactly! Does he even have a phone?!
Because we have been around for a number of years now producers have heard of us, and some have started approaching us.
The process is first we taste the product. We receive the first samples see if they’re good. We buy bigger samples because we need to see how it looks and reacts in larger quantities. If we’re happy with the sample, we will meet with the producers on site, view their farm, and see how the communication is, if we can work together harmoniously, then we do a trial, like twelve months of introducing the product.
It is not always straightforward though. Because we rely on people to harvest, rather than machines, and on occasion nature isn’t in your favour, so all these things need to be taken into account.
Our yields are smaller, but the product is exceptional.
When we receive the product it goes through quality control, sorting and packaging, and all of this is also done by hand. It enables us to keep the product whole. We use scissors, but that’s about the limit of our mechanisation
How do you store the product? I just imagine like big glass jars.
No, there’s too much to put in glass jars. It depends on the product. Some go in big produce bags like you sometimes see at the markets, others are stored and boxes or cartons amidst layers of paper. It depends on the product. Mint leaves for instance, they’re very sensitive so they are boxed to reduce friction. The chilli flakes have to go in big foil lined bags because they smell so strong.
Which product do you use the most?
Well I’m Greek, so I put Oregano in everything! In the Winter I tend to use more chilli and the and in the Summer I use more of the fine flowers. It really depends. I do love a bay leaf though. They’re so under estimated, but they go in so many dishes.
I also use a lot of products that aren’t in the range yet because I like to study them before we release them. I like to see how new products perform and respond.
How would you describe your atelier get. give?
I started get.give together with my business partner (and cousin) Seanne Ducat. We wanted to find a way to provide a broader and more thoughtful offering of gifting that can be enjoyed every day. We’ve invested a lot of time to carefully curate a selection of products made by passionate producers that we believe recipients will cherish, most of which we’ve picked up during our travels.
We currently have two arms to the business: one is the retail store which will also be launched online in early October this year (very exciting). The second is our Gifting Agency where we work with corporate clients to pair them with like-minded businesses and create gifting strategies and collections that truly align with their brand ethos.
Later in the year we’ll be adding a third arm to the business which is our own collection of eco-friendly gift wrapping that we’ve created together with local artists in Asia.
The get.give shop and studio is where customers can come and really explore our family of brands. Everything that we’ve selected has a personal connection with both myself and my business partner Seanne. The store is where we can first hand relay these stories to the clients and really educate them about the products. We will do this with our online store, but we’re both a little old school and love to meet with people face to face.
We have been frustrated for a while now by the lack of gifting options in Hong Kong and generally worldwide. We both feel that what is on offer is very trendy, gimmicky, lacking heart and ultimately dust collectors that end up in a landfill. I haven’t been able to find one great store that offers a variety of useful products from quality makers that suits both men and women across a variety of ages. get.give is our answer to this. We’re still early days so the collection will grow with us and our customers as we develop more of a relationship.
From the corporate gifting side, we found that some brands are doing themselves more harm than good with the items they are choosing to gift. We’d see gifts with large logos in bins post-events or found that everyone would gift the same thing – one year it’s a speaker, the next it’s a phone charger. So recipients end up with three or more of an item stacking up.
All this leads to what Seanne and I term ‘gifting guilt’ – that feeling you have when you receive something and instantly feel bad about the amount of packaging or the fact that it’s just another thing to store away or awkwardly try to give away. Our aim is for get.give to make ‘gifting guilt’ to be a thing of the past.
A spotlight on some of the brands you are bringing to Hong Kong
We have exclusive artist edition rugs by New York based Artist August Krogan-Roley together with Kahoko. All hand woven in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
We also stock the most amazing hand-picked herbs from Greece by the brand Daphnis & Chloe. They also work with local farmers to help them get the most from their crops with organic farming techniques.
Los Poblanos is a family-run lavender farm and homestead in New Mexico introduced to me by great friends whilst on holiday this year. They make the most exquisite products from their lavender in the summer and chillies in the autumn … I ended up helping to harvest the lavender, learn about their processes and meet with the family. Now we have them in Hong Kong which is very exciting.
We are bringing in enamelware by Japanese brand Kaico and designed by Japanese design icon Makoto Koizumi and hand-made wooden household brushes and cleaning tools from Redecker, a 75-year-old family run business from Germany.
Taken from Stylebrief Hong Kong - http://www.stylebriefhongkong.com