As his name lets you guess, Riccardo Brunet has Italian-French roots. His love of cooking was passed on to him by his parents. As Food Developer with Valora he analyses the latest food trends and tinkers with the pretzels, sandwiches and cornetti which are later displayed in the show cases of BackWerk, Brezelkönig and Caffè Spettacolo in Switzerland.
It’s a grey autumn day at the Brezelkönig headquarters in Emmenbrücke near Lucerne. Riccardo Brunet is bustling around and filling the big kitchen island with delicacies. Dried tomatoes, cranberries, fresh rocket, beef – he keeps on adding ingredients to create a colourful presentation. When the appliances in his development kitchen are humming in harmony and the smell of freshly-baked bread fills the air, the 34-year old Riccardo is in his element. As Food Developer with Valora, he takes off on an inspirational tour around the world twice a year to look for the latest food trends. “To find out where the sector is heading, you have to investigate what the world’s master chefs are working on,” says Riccardo.
While the US mostly set the tone in earlier years, Italy, France and the Scandinavian countries have come to the fore in the last few years. “As Switzerland generally lags a bit behind when it comes to food trends, we can track developments abroad for a longer period before we introduce something here.” This also allows him to take a good look at the creations of his foreign colleagues at BackWerk. André Schroeder, Dominik Knöpke, Raymond Delsing and Benjamin Merkader are the names of the Food Developers in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Together they form BackWerk’s “culinary network”.
Natural, regional, healthy – and “instagrammable”
Back in his development kitchen in Emmenbrücke, Riccardo thinks about how to integrate all his impressions into new products. “The current food trend is healthy, authentic and regional products. Many cereals and superfoods will be with us for a long time still.” Adaptation to the Swiss market is important, but this involves a constant process of testing: while Mr and Mrs Switzerland have been passionately in love with Riccardo’s avocado pretzel rolls for the last three years, they hated his chia pretzels and his pretzel Bircher müesli for reasons that are beyond him. The way that products look is also becoming increasingly important – they have to be “instagrammable”.
From the meadow to the pretzel
Riccardo works with Swiss Alpine herbs and flowers, for example, to put the finishing touches to his new and all-natural pretzel composition. Every six weeks, Riccardo presents his new creations for Brezelkönig, BackWerk and Caffè Spettacolo to a selected group of colleagues. The products are then tasted and assessed: are the taste and consistency good? Do they look attractive and can they be packed safely for transport? And last but not least: how much would the tasters pay for a product? Some compositions immediately pass the first test, and others need to be tweaked a little. Either with regard to their composition, presentation or production-related processing aspects.
Via video in the sales outlets
After a product has been approved, it takes around six months before it can be displayed in Swiss shop windows. To make sure the products are prepared exactly the same way at all locations, everybody receives an instruction video from Riccardo. “For me, it’s the greatest thing ever to express my creativity at Valora. The growing mobility of the population means that ever more people eat on the go, and I’m pleased that they enjoy my creations for Brezelkönig, BackWerk and Caffè Spettacolo.”
Riccardo's fitness sandwich – Recipe for slimming down in the New Year
The kitchen think tank
Photo and video clip: Noë Flum