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An Interview with Vince Gentile

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One might not guess that the owner of the newest salmon smokery in the Cotswolds is only twenty-four. Vincenzo Gentile is confident and passionate about producing the best product possible for his customers. When speaking to him about his livelihood you understand immediately how renowned chefs and restaurants brought him on as a supplier, you can't help but be excited about Atelier as well, his energy is infectious. I sat down with Vince in late May to chat to him about food, what it's like starting a business in the Cotswolds and how he runs his salmon smokery.

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I'd love to hear a bit about your background. how did a 24 year old Italian ended up in the Cotswolds running his salmon smokery?

In terms of smoked salmon, when I was living in East London, I met Ole Hansen. He was at the time one of the best smoke salmon producers in London. It was Christmas when I met him, a very busy time for salmon producers and took me under his wing, showing me the process of smoking salmon. One day Ole by accident slept through his alarm. We had a meeting where we were going to do the same thing over again. when he didn't show up I already knew what to do and decided to go ahead and get the orders ready. When he finally woke up he came and saw what I'd done. He was so surprised and greatfull and asked right then and there if I'd like to begin training as a manager. I spent 2-3 months working production with him before he let me work on my own. I loved the job, it was my first real one and had a lot of responsibility. I obviously made mistakes but overall I did well. I worked with him for a year and a half, learning the whole process from start to finish. He was a special man, it was incredibly challenging working for him but also very inspiring. 
Eventually his East London smokery moved to the Cotswolds on the Daylesford property. This is where I was first introduced to the Daylesford brand. I began working the market stalls, meeting customers as well as the staff at Daylesford Organic. I eventually built up a rapport with the general manager of the Notting Hill branch and he offered me a job. At this point I had been thinking moving my work back to London and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
From there I began to learn as much as I could about the industry. I met more people within the Daylesford brand and saw first hand what their clients were looking for when they visited the shop. About a year and half later an opportunity became available and I was approached to run my own salmon smokery on the farm. Atelier is at the moment the only 'non-Daylesford' brand on the farm.

What makes your salmon stand out from the rest?

Well there are a few things that makes our product different from other suppliers. The number one thing is that we do not vacuum pack our product. We believe that this reduces the quality of flavour. It's a commercial decision and makes sense from a business perspective as it creates a longer shelf life. We also see not using the vacuum pack method as a way to prove to ourcustomer that they are getting a fresh product. Our packaging is also made of egg shells, which is quite unusual, we are the only company using this product in the UK at the moment. Like the shell protects and preserves the yolk inside, this wrapping does the same for our fish. It keeps our salmon fresher for longer. We also often manage to get salmon straight from the harvest, a rare thing in the industry. From catch to kitchen the salmon gets to our customers within fifty hours. It doesn't get much fresher than that. This is also a reason that we don't need to vacuum pack, our products aren't sitting around waiting to be sent out.

Your slices look noticeably different from other smoked salmon on the market, can you explain the decision to cut your slices vertically?

Because our product is so different from everything else on the market we want it to stand out.The vertical slice comes from Scandinavian countries, to them it's not new but it's a technique that is only now making it's way over to the UK. Another thing is the flavour. In a vertical slice you get three different flavours, the smoke, the mild and delicate flavours that are nearer the skin and therefore shielded from the smoke as well as the fattier flavours that are weaved throughout. In paper cut slices you can only get one of these flavours at a time you end up missing so much flavour. 

What are some of your favourite ways to eat your salmon?

I personally have salmon on it's own. It has an outstanding flavour and one that really is best served by itself. However it's great with a crusty slice of sourdough with avocado and creme fraiche. 

At the moment you sell at markets as well as suppling restaurants. Is there any way for an individual to purchase your salmon for themselves online?

At the moment we don't have an online shop. Atelier is only five months into it's first year, we already have a booming business with chefs & restaurants and we're looking to have an online shop for individual customers up and running by September. However if you're keen to purchase our salmon before that, we are taking orders via email. We want to keep things personal and make sure that our customers are getting what they want and understand our process. 

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Interview & Photography | Ariana Ruth