Having grown up on the Italian island of Sardinia, family and food have always been on the mind of Massimo Scalas, the founder of boutique smallgoods business Salumi Australia.
Scalas recalls that he was about 10 years old when he started learning how to cook by himself.
“Back in Sardinia, summer was great because it was very warm and there was a lot to do outside.
“But in winter it was quite boring and the only thing I found a bit of relief was in cooking, so I just started baking cakes and making pizzas.”
But cooking in the Scalas household was always a family affair, with Scalas saying that it was a rare occasion when the family ate out because everything would be freshly cooked at home, from desserts to bread, and salumi* such as salami and prosciutto, especially during Christmas and Easter.
“When I was growing up my dad always had pigs at home and every year we always made our own salami and prosciutto. In the summer you do your tomatoes, and in winter you do your salami, and I was brought up that way.”
Although for Scalas, he said most of his skills were picked up during four years at cooking school in Italy, and then jet setting around the world as a chef working for various kitchens including for a cruise liner and at five-star resorts in the Hayman Islands, Mauritius, Cyprus, and the Emirates.
But since moving to Australia 23 years ago for his Australian wife, who he met while working on the cruise liner, the freshness of the food, in particular the quality of smallgoods, hasn’t been quite same. He noticed it especially when he opened up his own restaurant on the Gold Coast, and then in Byron Bay.
“I realised there was a gap in the smallgoods market, and in my cooking I wasn’t using much of the product because I couldn’t really find anything that I really liked.
“Everybody was trying to take shortcuts, producing for the sake of producing products, but nothing I really liked. So I put a business plan together, and then myself and my partner Rebecca just started,” he said.
Scalas said with the range of smallgoods Salumi Australia produces, he tries to keep the recipes as authentic to the flavours he grew up with as possible.
“We have simple flavours, but we make sure we do it properly without shortcutting, so we have a proper ageing room so your product can age to the right amount.”
Pig farming did cross his mind at one point, but Scalas said knew nothing about farming so decided to stick with what he knew. Instead he started sourcing his pigs from local farmers like Bangalow Sweet Pork and Byron Bay Pork. But for the last six months, the company has been using free-range pork from Gooralie based in west Queensland.
“I’m trying to go to free-range all the way. It’ll be a process that takes month because pigs take at least 10 months to grow, but that’s our direction. I think it’s a fair market for the animals, and it makes a big difference in the products,” he said.
While he’s no longer in the commercial kitchen, Scalas said he still enjoys cooking.
“I love beef, just simple food; I’m not into the fine dining that much. I really love a nice open fire where I can put some meat on the coal, and cook it for the beautiful flavours. Good friends, good meat, good wine and that’s it.”
*Salumi are Italian cold meats, and not to be confused with salami.