Creating art as a chef. An exclusive interview with International Pastry Chef and artist Antonio Argentieri.
Interview By Tiziano Thomas Dossena
An artist, a chef, a businessman, a philanthropist, a bulwark of Italian culture in the world…who is really Antonio Argentieri? Let’s discover a little more about him…
L’Idea Magazine: Our readers, who reside in Italy may know you from your Italian TV program on RAI Television, but I see from the flood of information online that you live in Ireland and you have strong connections to Australia and Italy. Could you tell our readers how you arrived from Vasto, in Abruzzo, to Dublin and what are your past experiences in Australia?
Antonio Argentieri: Yes, in Italy I am also known for television programs, such as la “Prova del Cuoco” e “Cuochi e D’intorni”, Alice TV and others.
I am originally from an Abruzzese town, Vasto (ch), from where I left many years ago with my suitcase full of dreams and experiences. I was strongly convinced of bringing my Italian excellence and my corner of Abruzzo with me to the world. Quality, culture, and history seen through my art as a pastry chef.
On my return from one of my trips, I was invited to a meeting at a school, in which an Italian entrepreneur and other companies operating abroad took part. And that’s where they suggested that I move to Ireland, at the invitation of one of them. I found myself so well in Dublin that I decided to stay and establish a working platform for my businesses around the world.
My relationship with Australia has been solid and strong for several years now, particularly with W. Australia and the city of Perth. I started with my cooking show, up to returning even 3 times a year, for more and more numerous other shows in regional clubs, associations, and for events sponsored by the state. As a result of all this and for my love for the city of Perth W. A., I was honored by the “twins buttons” with the symbol of the city, and for the dissemination abroad of the Italian heritage in the world. Meanwhile, I became a guest and judge of the Perth Royal Show and the Association of Cake Decorators of W. A.
Also in Australia, for years now I have been the ambassador of the CLCRF based in Perth but operating internationally, collaborating and organizing large fundraising events for research against childhood cancer. And it is from everything that I then created and patented my “Cake Kid’s Therapy” with a therapeutic approach to children who are going through a bad period, to artistic, Italian pastry.
L’Idea Magazine: You are an artist who also found a path in life being a chef. How did that occur? What triggered your interest in baking? How did your son Karoljosef get involved in your passion?
Antonio Argentieri: I have always loved our Italian culture, in all its vast and unique expressions. I remember from an early age, watching my mother and my grandmother, while they made desserts, fresh pasta, and more of our tradition, which fascinated me more and more, even behind their stories. They talked to me about the art, history, and traditions that were behind those preparations.
Then growing up I lost this attention, even though it remained hidden in me. I decided to take another path, always artistic, taking me to study interior design at the academy.
And it is in a particular and delicate moment of my life that, thanks to the intuition of my son Karoljozef, this passion of mine exploded again. He is the one that praised my baking and called me “Sweet Daddy.” And it is since then that I have begun to study and specialize in this “white art”, where I express my past studies to the fullest.
After a year, I founded “Sweet Daddy Pastries & Co Italy” and I immediately started traveling the world. Today I reside in Ireland, where the “KJA FACTORY”, which absorbed Sweet Daddy Pastries & Co Italy, was born
L’Idea Magazine: What about “KJA factory”?
Antonio Argentieri: The “KJA FACTORY” is a reality that collects all my experiences gained over the years. In fact it bears the name of my son Karoljozef, and it is another way to thank him.
L’Idea Magazine: You founded “Sweet Daddy Pastry & Co Italy” sixteen years ago. How does your company operate?
Antonio Argentieri: My Factory brings the Italian qualities and excellence, art, culture, history of my country with me to the world. I select and create culinary and non-culinary products with small Italian family businesses, which produce in an artisanal way, still following centuries-old traditions. Like the “Fratelli Costa” and the “Orma”. Sicilian, Abruzzese, Calabrian products.
Through my cooking shows, the whole of Italy is represented in a sensorial way.
I always say in my shows, “here you live and enter the heart of Italy for a couple of hours”.
L’Idea Magazine: What brought this success for “Sweet Daddy Pastry & Co Italy in countries like Kyrgystan and Russia? Do you also export to USA?
Antonio Argentieri: As I said earlier, with the passage of time with my shows, I have been invited to many other countries, always thanks to the contacts and friendships that developed through my good work. I have received many satisfactions both human and professional. I built relationships that allowed me to serve many high ranking state representatives, like the Russian prime minister in Kyrgyzstan at a state banquet. I have seen, with Italy in my art and in my heart, many countries, only America was missing and I was supposed to visit in September New York and Las Vegas to start some commercial ties, but unfortunately, Covid19 has blocked everything.
L’Idea Magazine: Your motto is “Learn, create, rejoice”. Do you carry that belief in everything you do?
Antonio Argentieri: Yes, my motto is “Learn, create, rejoice” and I carry it in everything I do. I never forget my roots, and from Italy I can only learn, create, rejoice. Presenting yourself with a smile is the key to everything.
L’Idea Magazine: Do you still operate as an artist aside from your baking world?
Antonio Argentieri: Yes, my artistic field is vast and it is always alive in my “white art”.
In my creations, in my cakes, there is art, sculpture, study. I plan to organize an exhibition with my most representative pieces. I also have a second passion, singing. I love opera madly.
L’Idea Magazine: You appeared on the Italian RAI TV program “La prova del cuoco”. How was that experience?
Antonio Argentieri: The experience in RAI TV was fantastic, educational, and led me to meet unique people and workers, and I still feel today its effects on me.
L’Idea Magazine: On the occasion of the 70th Festival di Sanremo, you created a sculpture made of sugar for the renowned soprano Katia Ricciarelli….
Antonio Argentieri: Yes, Sanremo was yet another recognition of my art and of my person. Being called to create a dessert for the fiftieth anniversary of her career, the anniversary of soprano Katia Ricciarelli, was an unparalleled emotion.
L’Idea Magazine: Any new projects in the works?
Antonio Argentieri: Fortunately, there are many projects. Meanwhile, I continue in the best ways to spread our traditions abroad, then in the coming months, Covid19 permitting, there is the release of my album “Singing with the chef”. I already have the confirmation of Sanremo D.O.C, a television program and finally to come to America.
L’Idea Magazine: If you had the opportunity to meet anyone from the past or the present, who would he or she be and what would you ask them?
Antonio Argentieri: In the past, I had the privilege of meeting John Paul II, a great man, a vibrant soul for the whole of humanity, a strength, a cry, a hope, an example for the whole world. Yes, I would love to meet him again, and relive that experience, and ask him if there was still a man like him so that he can still give the man of today that strength and that light that are lost today.
L’Idea Magazine: A message for our readers?
Antonio Argentieri: I am asked for a message for the reader; what to say? Times are not calm, this Covid19 has created human and social instability It is precisely at this moment that you have to take your life back in hand, and go back to planning, delineating, dreaming, studying, not getting lost in the whirlwind of fear, for a peaceful future. Never give up, never.
Always remembering that beyond the clouds, the darkest ones, there is a radiant and warm sun, which shines for everyone.