Born in 1975, Tobia Papetti is now one of the most renowned catering experts in Italy. He joined Galateo Ricevimenti over ten years ago, and today he is the company’s general manager. He has successfully handled all sorts of clients and events.
From private homes to fairs, from ten guests to five thousand, from weddings to fashion shows, he is the deus ex machina of countless, amazing events, carried out across all of Italy.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Tobia Papetti and understand the secrets that lay behind his success.
Tobia, first of all, thank you for accepting this interview.
After ten years organising events at the highest level of the Italian market, do you believe you have seen everything? Or do you think the market still has some novelty experiences left for you to try?
Twelve years at Galateo have allowed me to see and experience a lot of different things and emotions. However, the beauty in this line of work, which is also what keeps me going with the same passion and dedication as always, is its capacity to still be able to surprise me every time. That awareness that the next new experience is just behind the corner, tied to an upcoming event, whichever it may be.
For all your clients, whether they be direct or agencies, your opinion during the organisation of their event is always of crucial importance. How have you learned to carry out this job so well?
I am a believer of the fact that this job can only be learned in the field. I compare it to another great passion of mine: going out to sea. There is no instruction manual, crash course or school that can teach you as much as being fully immersed in critical situations. Only by living these things in first person can you really learn to harness them. By organising as many events as I have, over time I have been able to build a very large “database” of information and experiences, which facilitates me in finding the best solution to resolve problems or unexpected events, allowing me to support any client.
In the last ten years the world of catering has changed deeply in terms of cuisine styles, technology, and setups. What do you believe will be the next changes that the market will undergo?
After ten years focused on gourmet cooking, showcasing elaborate plates and complex recipes, we are gradually returning to a style closer to that of “comfort food,” made with products of the land, genuine and healthy, yet presented in an elegant and contemporary fashion, and using sophisticated cooking techniques, such as low temperature and sous vide. The employment of new technologies in cooking, using fresh and local ingredients, together with the attention for innovative vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes, are definitely the current trends.
We know you give all of your setups a particular touch. What is your starting point when conceiving a setup for a new event? Do you have a specific method you usually follow?
First of all, it is of pinnacle importance to understand the client’s needs. This, for me, is always the starting point that leads then to all the other steps. To be able to satisfy the client’s expectations and to surprise them is the stimulus that triggers the fantasy and creativity from me to kick-start a new project.
Who should determine the menu of an event: the client, the organiser, the sales staff, or the chef? Could you please walk us through the ideal process?
There is no real rule of thumb. It all depends on the kind of event. I believe that the full collaboration of all actors involved is fundamental for building a good menu. The delicacies we offer are always created by our chefs, which, however, also ask the advice of the sales staff when constructing the menu. We are in direct contact with the client, and, therefore, have a greater perception of their needs. For private events, namely, it is the clients that make the choices, and select specialties from our many recipes. In this case, our job is limited to proposing combinations and pairings that differ from those initially requested and, at times, offer clients the possibility to go a bit out of their comfort zone. Conversely, for corporate events, especially fashion ones, where attention to the aesthetics of the plate, to the colour of the ingredients and to every minimal decorative detail, becomes more important than the recipe itself, we must limit the creativity of both the organiser and the client, as we are called to not just execute the aesthetic aspect, but also ensure that the plate “works” and can be realised in the kitchen that will be made available and for the number of expected guests at the event. You cannot imagine the places in which we find ourselves to build a kitchen, which, in a limited time, must produce elaborate plates, perhaps even for a thousand guests…
Amongst all the events you have organised, is there one (or more) that you preferred? If so, which one(s)?
I will be honest: the events I have organised are really countless. Twelve years, with 250 events per year: it would be impossible to even count them all! Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, business breakfasts and coffee breaks, gala dinners, inaugural cocktails, parties on board of fancy yachts, moving trains, marble caverns; I have truly realised every kind of event and for any number of guests: from two to five thousand. I cannot deny it: my work is time consuming and, at times, a bit tiring, but it also allows me to share unique emotions and experiences! I have done a lot of events, but I keep fond memories and anecdotes from each one.
Is there a specific event that you would have always wanted to do? If so, which one?
Absolutely, but I prefer not to reveal it! Maybe it is actually… right behind the corner! Allow me to be a bit superstitious…
A catering business is normally composed of different yet complementary units, such as kitchen, pastry, inventory, sales and marketing, administration and service staff. What is the recipe that Galateo employs to make each one of these units grow equally?
At the base of a business’ success there are the people that comprise it. Galateo is comparable to a great, big family, where respect for the work of each individual, together with the sharing of ideas and dialogue, contributes –quite a bit– to the success of the single departments.
What are your personal future goals in this line of work? Are you going yo try and raise the bar even more?
One of my future goals is definitely to be able to bring our made in Italy abroad. Italian craftsmanship, even in food, is definitely a winning factor with foreigners in Italy, and I believe it would be even more so if it were to be exported beyond our borders. I have been thinking this for years, but it has become a certainty during an event that I recently organised in Doha, for the emir of Qatar. Everyone went nuts, him first. They were all mesmerised after seeing us at work: by the manual skills of our chefs and pastry chefs and, obviously by the genuine flavours of our products.
One last, personal question to wrap things up: you are married with two marvellous children. We know that in this line of work it is hardly possible to maintain a balance between private and work life. How are you able to keep everything in balance?
Well, this is, in fact, the only sore spot… What can I say? I have never been very lenient with myself. I think this causes me to miss many once-in-a-lifetime moments, as my children grow. I console myself by thinking that, thanks to my work, I am able to contribute to their education and their future. I try to do everything possible to make up for my absence, and also the impossible to pass every free moment I have with my family. For example, since I am often out of Tuscany for business, even if I must drive during the night, I make an effort to get back home to sleep. If I get back home late, I want my children to see me when they wake up. For me, there is nothing that can substitute their hug when they are still bleary-eyed in bed. Obviously, to make up for this, I organise some pretty awesome birthday parties!
We thank Tobia Papetti for his availability and kindness.