It is clear from watching the show Recipe to Riches that your family means so much to you. How did your dad respond to you winning the appetizers category of Riches to Riches? He must have been thrilled that you could share it with so many people.
I watched the show with my lovely Mom and Dad and we all cried – now you know where I get it from! For my dad in particular this is very moving because it represents our Italian heritage and our life in Canada coming together and being shared across the country. I never thought this recipe would be a President’s Choice® product shared with people across Canada!
I am unfamiliar with mortadella and Fruilano cheese but they are delicious in your product. Were these staple ingredients in your house growing up?
Yes! I grew up in the little town of Kitimat in Northern BC which is quite isolated but my parents always managed to find great ingredients. The Italian families would go together and order shipments of beautiful products – cheeses, meats, fish, olives, grapes – and have them sent up in mass quantities. I always say my mother is the first real pioneer of fusion food – she made this incredible blend of West Coast and Northern Italian food. I don’t think anyone could have grown up in that house and not turned out to be a foodie!
You were thrown many curve balls by the Kitchen Commander Chef Rob Rainford. Is he really as intimidating in that kitchen as he appears?
He was a very commanding figure and pretty much scared the pants off me! But I have to say I could see a great deal of understanding and compassion in his eyes and even as he threw curve balls our way, I could see he was rooting for us all to succeed. He asked great questions that really helped us figure out how to handle the challenges and what direction to go in. “Do you think your oil temperature is right? What could you do to adjust your oil temp so the cheese more fully melts inside?” I LOVE him and will be forever grateful for his guidance and advice!
Are you glad that you were loyal to your original idea to make meat lollipops? You were under a lot of pressure to change that concept.
I really am glad I stuck with the name. I am the first to say that this is a simple, fun little appie and I think over-thinking the name would have been a mistake. It’s fun, cute, yummy party-food-on-a-stick. There are certainly other lollipop-themed products out there and they’re not all sweets by a long shot.
I noticed that the resulting product is a lot smaller than the one that ended up on the judges’ table. How happy are you with the product President’s Choice created?
I am truly impressed with the President’s Choice® Italian Lollipops! They stayed true to the original recipe and used real Friulano cheese and fresh Mortadella – it is very authentic. I think the smaller size was a very smart change, they are lovely little bites and just perfect for an appie. And with these simple fresh ingredients and the small size, there are only about 130 calories in 2 of these – not bad at all for something that feels so decadent!
What was it like seeing your product at your grocery store?
Seeing my product at the Real Canadian Superstore® made me stop in my tracks and take this whole experience in. It is so funny to see your own giant cardboard likeness looming over the freezer aisle! For me, a big part of this journey has been getting over my self-consciousness and fear and putting myself out there in a real and authentic way – nothing like a giant caricature to test your limits! At the end of the day, I am so happy and grateful for this whole experience. And it is so sweet that this product honours my family in the way it does – that means everything to me.
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