Interviews

The Beckhams of Italian cuisine: A Tuscan romance that ended in marriage and three businesses

6 min read

26 July 2018

The latest couple in our series attributed to married co-founders, talk about their love of Italian food – and the one rule they always adhere to.

Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi have made a name for themselves in the cookery world. The duo run the Caldesi in Marylebone in London’s West End, as well as an Italian restaurant in Campagna in Bray on Thames.

La Cucina Caldesi, a cookery school specialising in teaching regional Italian cookery, was also their creation.

Talking to Real Business, they reveal that Katie always had a passion for Italian cuisine – but never pursued it until she met Giancarlo. Here’s their story.

How did you both meet?

Katie trained as an artist and worked in the theatre as a set designer. I commissioned her to paint a mural in my restaurant. I was blown away by her artistic talents and she loved my Italian cookery. 

We quickly became an item and shortly after became the focus of the BBC TV Show “Return to Tuscany,’ where we opened a residential cookery school. The show ran for some 20 episodes and culminated in us getting married there.

What inspired you to start a business together?

Our love of food and passion for the Italian kitchen. I already had a restaurant, but Katie’s heart was in food and so she gave up painting to help. Between us we opened three new businesses.

What specific roles do you both have?

I’m in charge of all operational matters and tend to be “hands-on” in the kitchen, ensuring the Caldesi brand of authentic, seasonal Italian cookery is not diluted. Katie, being more creative, generally heads up the marketing side of the business and runs the cookery school.

Both Katie and I are jointly responsible for aspects of the business that benefit from our joint talents, from dish and interior design and all points in between. It’s a partnership (both in business and in life) so quite often specific roles are hard to isolate.

How do you separate work disagreements from your personal life?

With difficulty. Our monthly management meetings are a great time to go through awkward areas for discussion with the staff. We try not to take points personally but it happens occasionally. Italians are good at arguing and then making up quickly, so Katie has had to learn to do that too.

Meetings are not like your average British meeting when people politely wait to speak so as not to interrupt others. Italians speak over each other, so the Brits on the team have to learn to do the same!

Being equally passionate about the business means that when we do disagree we always know that we have the same target in mind.

While we may not agree on the best way to get there we generally are focused on the same goal. We are also very lucky to have a strong senior management team who in matters of business finance, business strategy and marketing will always be available to advise and suggest solutions.

What are your individual strengths?

I’m good with numbers, working with the kitchen and front of house staff in the restaurants, as well as keeping the business on a strategic plane. Katie’s creative talents are key to our overall look, the customer’s visual experience, the marketing of the businesses, the development of new cookery courses etc.

Do you have any rules to leave work at work?

No. It is our love and passion so it is hard to give it a rest, even on holiday. We seem to be forever researching and learning. Whether it’s discovering a new producer or being shown how to cook a dish by an Italian Mamma.

We’ve written 11 recipe books between us, nine of which are on the food of Italy, so it’s safe to say much of our free time is either spent gathering content for our books or testing recipes for the book.

I suppose one rule we adhere to is ensuring we find time to be a “family” – it is very important to us.

What’s been your biggest business achievement to date?

Year on year growth through the last recession and this year being our best ever trading year to date.

What are the perks of running a business together?

We get to make decisions quickly and we always have something to talk about!

What celebrity couple are you most like?

David and Victoria Beckham. Just as they have built a brand around themselves we too have built our own brand “Caldesi”.

I am very much the front man, always focusing on goal, Katie, the creative mind, goes further afield for inspiration and is always searching out the new and upcoming trends.