by Ben Meehan
Piadina Italian Passion Food is a concept eatery “that’s all about healthy and hearty Italian meals at reasonable prices”. Created by Giorgio Matera, Piadina’s in Japan is located in the Aoyama district in central Tokyo. Matera’s infectious personality, boundless energy, and acute attention to detail are just some of the trademarks that make him our featured entrepreneur.
Altogether almost twenty years but for eight of those years I was away establishing the business in the Philippines. I came here because I was offered the chance to head a restaurant franchise (a very famous restaurant chain). I did not know anything about Japan but I took the challenge because I wanted to experience the country and know something about the people.
Why did you start your business?
It was a decision made on emotion. When I came here for the first time, I really felt the joy of this place, of traveling and meeting new people. Passion Foods is my passion; it started out of joy. With this passion came a mission: I realized how much we can abuse our bodies when it comes to meal options; we forget to look after our bodies’ needs. My mission is to educate the people on how to eat healthily. In my mothers house 1 never saw any canned food! Only eat fresh. I don’t want to give a label to my food hut it is “memory food.” I remember the food I grew up with and I try to create the same experience for my customers.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals here?
Nobody is complete unless filled with passion—it’s like water, food, or air! You must bring your own personality to your business if you are not passionate about your business; you are in the wrong business. Your professional knowledge will not be enough in this country; you need to connect to the Japanese people and to know them. Remember you came to this country so you need to respect and understand their culture and have the mentality of you being a guest in their country.
What do you do for fun in Japan?
I am a lucky man; I am not a workaholic, but I have so much fun in the work that I do, meeting new people and seeing friends who come to the restaurant. I also like to ride my bicycle—also keeping healthy. I love to cycle through neighborhoods in Tokyo and discover a little of the real Japan; a real Japanese neighborhood, its people, its life.
I know you support some charities, particularly in the Philippines, can you tell us a bit about that?
I don’t like to use the word chanty, its important that all human beings are concerned about each other. I believe that the value of life is when you are without boundaries to help someone else. The Philippines is such a beautiful country but I could not close my eyes to what was going on when I was there. So I decided to help out and with some other people I created a school in an area called Payatas, which is famous for collecting the garbage from Manila. These people actually survive on the garbage. We wanted to help these children to grow in a positive environment with education, medicine, and food.
When you say ‘charity’ you have to start within yourself, then with your own family, and then you can start to look at the world around us.