The Rockstar: Fil Bucchino
Fil Bucchino is a Florence born – Toronto bred punk musician turned olive oil taster, producer & ambassador. His latest venture is a documentary, Obsessed with Olive Oil, which goes behind the scenes of the rebirth of quality olive oil production and the lengths Olive Oil professionals will go through to make that perfect product. The film is currently doing the festival circuits around the world, so keep an eye out for it.
How did you find yourself living in Toronto from Florence?
My grandparents, on my mother’s side, made an attempt to emigrate to the U.S. but were diverted to Venezuela. My mother later returned to Italy to study medicine in Florence and that’s where she met my father. Shortly after my parents graduated we moved to Caracas, to join my grandparents. This became our home for almost 7 years. As the socio-political situation in the country worsened we were welcomed into Canada, and it has been our home ever since. I absolutely love Toronto and Canada.
What was your musical journey?
I was always attracted to music. My introduction to feeling music viscerally was dancing with my mother as a kid to “merengue” and “salsa”, and to playing Venezuelan folkloric instruments like the Cuatro and the Tambora. I started playing guitar, but I eventually left it for my true love of the bass. It was in Guelph while studying Biomedical Sciences, where I was able to really dive into music. In cities like Toronto it felt like you had to pick what group / type of music you belonged to but in Guelph it was different, punk, jazz, reggae, hip hop and latin all blended together, the musicians and the audience embraced it as one type of music. It was very special. I played bass in many bands as a hired gun, until my own band, originally “Flashlight” and later “Flashlight Brown”, signed a record deal and I spent almost a decade touring, writing and producing music. On the road I would always get my hands on the new harvest olive oil and share it with friends.
Do you feel artistic affinity between music and olive oil making?
Absolutely, there are so many parallels between them. Perhaps the most obvious one is that art as a whole entices a feeling and an experience. Music and well produced olive oil do the same. It’s about the senses and how they are processed by each individual. But it is also about the people behind music and quality olive oil that are very similar. It’s about their passion in the pursuit of excellence, of something they love and want to share. It’s about pushing themselves harvest after harvest or song after song to strive for perfection, to better themselves. It’s about sharing in their excitement, it’s an expression. I also found so many parallels between the process at the frantoio and the studio. You simply cannot take short cuts, every step of the chain is of crucial importance to a great oil or a great sounding production.
Do you spend more time working with music or olive oil?
I’ve been less hands on with music as I shifted to more of a supporting role for artists within a startup “Signal Creative Community” and with an artist management company “Play Along Music”. My time has been more actively devoted to extra virgin olive oil. I’ve replaced my music travels with olive oil travels so that doesn’t feel like much of a change. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate as it is so inspiring and satisfying to always work with people that share my passions: music and olive oil. I’m also excited as we’ve started to ideate on a project involving music and olive oil but it is still in its infancy stage.
What was is that made you jump into olive oil, become a producer, taster and ambassador?
I think it was a lucky moment, if it wasn’t that when we moved to Canada we were starved for better olive oil and other products from Italy I may have even taken it for granted. But there were two defining moments, one was tasting a properly produced oil and realizing that it is not “olive oil” (as we tend to group all extra virgins into one category) but rather “olive oils”. The second was when I attended my first harvest, it was literally a “cupid” moment and I never looked back. I became obsessed, I started participating in every harvest year after year, I wanted to know everything I could, I became a professional taster with ONAOO, and later enlisted in the Italian National Directory of technicians and experts of virgin and extra virgin olive oil, and today I also consult and judge contests. As far as becoming a producer, it started when I then took over my parents’ small quantity import, it started by bringing oil that we were sourcing for family and friends, but as my obsession grew I got involved in every step of production. Today I work closely with Andrea Pagliai and the Pruneti brothers, and through Abandoned Grove we produce and fly back across the Atlantic an olive oil that not only has passed the many chemical and sensory tests that we put it through but that also satisfies our obsession.
What was it that made the producers of olive oil go from making a product to making excellence? The Cutrera’s, Franci’s, who then influenced younger millers… what do you think happened in the 90s/00s to change the landscape of olive oil making and bring us the excellencies we can now appreciate?
A lot of people have different opinions on this, but I think that it was the understanding that quality and tradition are not synonymous. The new generation of producers embraced communication across the region lines in a more collaborative way than the older generation. They understood that not all olive oils are created equal, and that for example working a Coratina is different from working an Itrana and in turn demystified that a certain region or country makes the best olive oil. They understood that quality depends on how the harvest and the extraction process was carried out, not the region of origin. It’s about showcasing and maximizing the flavours and aromas of that specific cultivar, rather than just pressing olives to obtain oil (which is easy to do). The former is an extremely complicated process especially in today’s unpredictable climatic environment. They also embrace and continue to make very significant investments in technology. Without the distinction between quality and tradition I’m not sure that we would be where we are today in terms of a product of excellence.
How do you manage to stop the diffidence that some consumer have about Olive Oil, both because of the scandals and because of misconceptions?
It needs to start with education, by tasting, events, dinners, and even videos like the documentary. We need to experience Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Just like it happened to me and so many friends in the olive oil world, it is just as simple and undeniable, once you taste and smell a great oil, it is impossible to go back! Olive oil needs to be fresh, it doesn’t age well, and there is a whole separate olive oil world just like we learned with cheese, wine or even music. Once the consumer experiences and understands the product, she/he will start to refuse an oil that is defected, aged, spoiled, the same way we do with bruised fruits, stale bread, corked wine, rancid cold cuts etc. this is when the change will happen. Also, once people appreciate how a good bottle of oil will elevate 15 to 20 of their meals, the same way that one good bottle of wine can enhance a single meal, people will value quality oils and pay what they are worth. In turn create and help to sustain a more transparent industry. We are still far, but the movement has started.
Who is your olive oil hero?
Where do I start? I have many different heroes that have all contributed to my passion and learning in different areas of this industry, and in this industry we never stop learning. I would have to put Andrea Pagliai in Bagno a Ripoli at the top of my list, he is a mentor and a friend. He permeates love, and not only for olive oil but for nature, sustainable agriculture and community. To the list I would add Franco Pasquini, Simona Cognoli, Paolo & Gionni Pruneti, Marciello Scoccia, Luigi Caricato, Sandro Marques, Chef Andrea Perini, Filippo Falugiani, Nicola Di Noia.
Do you have an olive oil first memory?
Well three of them, one when I was a kid in Florence, the excitement of when my Nonna would bring home “Olio Nuovo” (the new harvest oil) every season. The second was tasting a properly produced oil for the first time, making me doubt everything that I thought I knew about olive oil. The third was the first time I tasted a cultivar of intense tomato leaf notes, it was a Sicilian Tonda Iblea.
I’m partial to many of Tuscany’s cultivars, primarily as we eat a lot of Tuscan food. Moraiolo, Frantoio, and depending on the season Correggiolo and Olivo Bianco. Every harvest it is very exciting to taste the varying levels and intensities of their herbaceous and nutty notes, green and black pepper spices and bitterness. I am also a fan of properly produced Tonda Iblea, Picual, Arbosana and Cima di Mola.
Which are the best places to listen to music in Toronto, (once we can again!)
There are many great places in Toronto, The Horseshoe Tavern and the old El Mocambo will always hold a special place in my heart, for the many early days memories of playing and watching live music. Lately I’ve been more focused on the shows rather than the venues. It’s always great seeing what promoters bring to Toronto – Massey Hall, Collective Concerts, Live Nation take chances on new artists and it will be interesting to see how that plays out when touring ramps up again.
Since we are all homebound at the moment, do you a favourite recipe you can share with our readers?
I keep it simple at home and focus on the best possible ingredients to do the majority of the work. Since EVOO literally enhances most dishes, and it is also in most cases the first and last ingredient in a recipe, with a good EVOO I’m already at least a third of the way to achieving a great dish. One of my ultimate favourites is Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, a classic that has been particularly fun lately as we’ve been experimenting with different oils while in quarantine.
Add good quality spaghetti to boiling water that was salted to taste, as the pasta is cooking, in a pan over low heat warm up the olive oil (the last time I used a Nocellara Messinese) add three cloves of garlic (cut in half and with the germ removed) and three fresh peperoncini (i found some really nice and hot Thai peppers). Heat on very low heat to ensure that the garlic and peppers don’t burn. When the pasta is very al dente place it directly in the pan and add some of the pasta water. Mix well, add more pasta water if needed and finish cooking. Once plated I add another string of raw Nocellara Messinese oil to complete the dish. It’s incredible the different variations in flavour when changing cultivars.
During this quarantine we also did a fun collaboration between Chef Kaya Ogruce of Death in Venice Gelato, in Toronto, and Abandoned Grove where he made an extra virgin olive oil and sea salt gelato, finished with an EVOO drizzle and lemon zest. One of the best gelatos I had ever tasted.
This is the trailer of Obsessed with Olive Oil