SustAgri 4.0
During the Multiplier event in Messina, Italy, the Michelin-starred chef and owner of La Capinera in Taormina, Pietro d’Agostino, talked with the SUSTAGRI4.0 team through a video call directed to the students of the Agricultural Istitute “P.Cuppari”.

Pietro, besides being a chef, you are also the head of culinary training schools in Italy and abroad. Could you tell us more about your ventures?

La Capinera restaurant was established in 2003, while the cooking school was set up in 2017. The intention was to bring together young people right after their graduation, guiding them into the working world. The school offers experiences abroad, where students have the opportunity to travel to India to learn about Italian and French cuisines. The credit goes to our products, which are world-class. Whenever I go abroad, I always bring raw materials with me, such as oregano, almonds, capers from Pantelleria, and capers from Salina, always choosing strictly seasonal products.

As international chefs, what is your approach to agricultural produce?

During the summer, we are busy with our kitchens and restaurants. In the winter, we are always on the lookout for new products and local producers. What I see is the need for young people who believe in the value of the land. In this historical phase, we are returning to our roots, rediscovering the value of healthy, sustainable, and chemical-free agriculture. In recent years, we have focused on using raw materials that must be strictly local; the best product is always the local one. We are fortunate to live in a land where excellence is a standard.

Do you think that social and e-commerce channels, such as the Grass platform, are useful resources for young farmers? And does this influence the choices you chefs make?

Communication is important in all sectors. Nowadays, if you have a great product, you need to communicate about it. And how do you do that? Through social media. We chefs pay attention to how the product is presented, but we always have to conduct tests. We test products regardless of PDO certification because sometimes a small producer might not have the resources to obtain official certification.

What types of agricultural products do you think will be valued in the future?

From the Covid period onward, I believe people have become more aware. Before, you could go to the supermarket and find everything you wanted, anytime. That period helped us recognize the importance of the local producer and of direct sales. In this sense, the products that will always be valued are raw materials, genuine products.

Would you advise young people to start an agricultural enterprise, or is this sector too competitive with multinationals?

I believe that quality triumphs in the long run. Small producers must focus on the quality of their products, which is different from multinational products. They can’t compete on scale, of course, but they must make quality their strong point. To start, one must study and understand their product well. Nowadays, I would focus on quality vegetables. One could establish a small consortium of young farmers and create partnerships with chefs or develop a system where the farmer consults the chef during the winter, so the production meets real market demand.

Do you have any advice for vocational training institutes in agriculture?

Today, there is a need for young professionals: studying is the key to employment.