Swide gives you all the details about Gnam Box: Right in their kitchen, our insider interviewed the minds behind this Social-Foodie project.
Before ringing the bell of the Gnam Box headquarters, I stop for one second at the door and realise that I have no idea of who the people behind Gnam Box are. Even when they gave me their telephone number by mail, they only said it was “Gnam Box’s one”.
Funny. I never interviewed someone not knowing who that someone was. Even their friends at the beginning didn’t know it was them behind the project.
It’s two grinning guys who welcome me in a sleek loft in the centre of Milan. The space is dominated by a big kitchen, “the main requirement when we were looking for a house”. On the table, a just-out-of-the-oven apple pie. “Would you like some? Our guest just made it, it was so much fun working with her!”. The “guest” is yet another Gnam Box fan who came to cook in their kitchen. They didn’t know her, better, they met her on Facebook and asked her if she was willing to come and cook for them and have some picture taken while doing so. They both want to stay anonymous because they see that people are more intrigued this way, they don’t want the guests to know the faces of who is going to open the door to them before arriving. I get that: food is about playing, too, and about having fun.
Gnam#1, art director, and Gnam#2, designer, are both from the Milan area and they love their city. So much so that, after a trip to Amsterdam, they decided they wanted to enhance the creativity of Milan with what inspired them during the trip. “We love Milan and we wanted to meet and to talk to interesting people, even if we didn’t know them yet. Like you do in New York, or in Amsterdam. Why not making it happen in Milan, then?” says Gnam#2. And so they thought about a virtual place – but you will see it, it’s also very real too – that could foster their passion for food and their general interest in everything that gravitates around it.
Gnam Box was born. First the blog and then very recently (it went live online on January 17th) the website, it’s a constant work in progress. “We don’t want to be self-reference. This is a mutual intellectual exchange: we open the door of our house and our kitchen to get to know people better and to recount their stories, while they give us new insights on recipes and they let us photograph them – or film them – while they cook. We love it. It’s beautiful to meet someone for the first time through their cuisine. The way you move in the kitchen, your chaos, the ingredients you pick, says a lot about you”, says Gnam#1 while he pours me a glass of wine, and goes on “we also say a lot about us through our recipes, the way we food-style our photographs…it’s how we like it, it’s very important to us. We are foodies, and never found the perfect food website. So we thought ‘hey, let’s do it’”.
Gnam#2 nods and in their eyes I can see the enthusiasm of two people who created something they longed for, something they really care about. “Food is where everything converges, it connects totally different people. In front of food we are all equal, we all speak the same language.”
Gnam Box satisfied their eagerness to mix their passion for food with the opportunity of meeting interesting people in Milan. Many of them are international creative people, and they “scout” most of them on Facebook “if we find the profile of an artist that we like, we contact him and see if he is willing to meet us. It’s all about being curious. If you are curious, you always want to discover more, to find out more, to reach out”.
Having so many international guests, do they focus on one kind of food? “We don’t want a food-ghetto, every kind of cuisine is welcome here!” says Gnam#1 “we just want them to feel at home no matter where they are from”.
Ok, I understand. They meet new interesting people on Facebook. Then what? “Then they come and cook for us. Sometimes they bring all the ingredients (even their kitchen tools, sometimes), for others it’s us who give them everything. It depends from the person. We certainly always leave them free to move around in the kitchen, we never interfere with their way of cooking”, explains Gnam#2. I wonder if they ever had any unpleasant surprises…”no one crazy, no, not yet” laughs Gnam#1, confirming that the fear people have in meeting strangers is much more in your mind than a real danger.
The kitchen is stacked with all sorts of ingredients, and I ask how they find them and chose them. “We are really careful about their quality, their freshness, we buy them in local markets or in shops that are food-ethically oriented”, says Gnam#1 “we want people to easily find them, because if the cooking process gets too complicated it doesn’t make sense to us.”
It’s a very new project, but they got a lot of support already from people that participated. “We talk about many things through cooking, and people are enthusiastic about it. It’s a 360 degrees approach, that’s also why in the name of the website we used the word “box”, it contains everything” says Gnam#1 (the ‘Gnam' part is the slang word Italians use to describe something as delicious, it’s the equivalent of ‘yum’ in English).
They publish recipes with beautifully styled photographs almost each day, but what’s their favorite dish? Gnam#2 laughs “We wanted to ask you first! We were talking about it before you arrived here.” I can’t resist talking about food and I reluctantly confess “I am a true Milanese. Mine is risotto with ossibuchi (to be precise, the dish is “ossibuchi alla Milanese”, a special cut of meat served with saffron rice).” “That’s not right, that’s my favorite dish!” says Gnam#2, immediately proposing to organize a milanese-oriented dinner. I turn to Gnam#1 with an interrogative face. “I love pasta with tomato sauce and basil, it reminds me of when my grandma used to make it with tomatoes from her vegetable garden. Mom tried to copy the recipe many times but never got the same result…”
I find out Gnam#1 is vegetarian and I find very interesting and welcoming the approach he has in the kitchen “I am not one of those vegetarians who don’t let people keep meat in the fridge! Gnam#2 eats meat whenever he wants” he says, while he winks at him sweetly. Gnam#2 picks up the conversation where it started, from; the favorite dish, because he has just remembered something: “Actually, pasta al pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce) has been the forerunner of Gnam box! We were at my parent’s and decided to prepare one with the tomatoes and the basil from their vegetable garden. It was delicious! So – with an old camera, I don’t even remember which one – I started to take pictures. It was our first photographed recipe, although we never published it because the kitchen wasn’t as cool as ours!” They laugh. I look at them, at this beautiful kitchen, and I marvel, as I always do when thinking of how sometimes, somehow, it’s so easy to make dreams come true.
Written by: Elisa della Barba