And the Italian Brand Ambassador Award Goes to...

Natasha Lardera (June 05, 2014)
Mel Bomprezzi, Vice President of Grocery & Natural Foods merchandising at Kroger Co. and Steve Jenkins, Vice President of Imports at Fairway Market, were recognized by the Italian Trade Commission for their vision, dedication, drive and passion which have contributed to growing the Made in Italy Brand in the US consumer marketplace

The Italian Trade Commission of New York, has recognized “Industry Trailblazers” of the Made in Italy with the first edition of the Italian Brand Ambassador Award, on Sunday, June 1

ceremony which took place at the Highline Ballroom.

Presented in  collaboration with Emirates Airline, Colavita USA  and Monini North America, the award ceremony recognized two leaders in the retail food sector whose vision, dedication, drive and passion have contributed to growing the Made in Italy Brand in the US consumer marketplace over  the  course  of  their  careers.  

This  year's  award  paid  tribute  to  "Italy's  Liquid  Gold"  and celebrated  the  success  of  premium  Italian  olive  oil  in  the  US  market  in  both  qualitative  and quantitative terms. “This is not just an award,”  Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the USA , Pier Paolo Celeste said when presenting the winners, “this symbolizes a commitment, a lifelong engagement because once you have got to know the quality and taste of Italian products you can't just stop.”

“The Italian Brand Ambassador Award exemplifies the qualitative relationship between Italy, its import  partners  and  the  evolution  of  products  positioned  in  these  markets”  Pier  Paolo  Celeste continued,  ”The recipients  of  the  Award  this first  year  are respected  businessmen  whose retail philosophies  have  contributed  to  the  paramount  success  of  their  retail  chain  operations.  It  is precisely the important relationships cultivated with consumers across retail aisles that allows Italy to consolidate and grow its position in the US market. The confidence placed in the quality of our products  coupled  with  the  leadership  of  our  import,  distributor  and  retail  partners  is  the  true impetus of our market expansion.”

The  awards,  handed  out  by  Italy's  Minister  of  Health,  Beatrice  Lorenzin,  were  given  to  Mel Bomprezzi, Vice President of Grocery & Natural Foods merchandising at Kroger Co. and Steve Jenkins, Vice President of Imports at Fairway Market.

“As a second generation Italian Americam” Bomprezzi said when accepting the award, “all I did

was continue the family's tradition of enjoying good food.” Bomprezzi started working for Kroger Co. in 1979, and through the years he has moved from meat cutter, to head produce buyer, meat merchandiser and in 2004 he was promoted to Vice President of Merchandising in the Columbus Division.  “This  award  makes  me  proud,”  he  added,  “but  most  of  all  my  90  year  old  father  is ecstatic. He taught me how to appreciate good quality, authentic Italian food products.”

“I get paid for my hobby,” Steve Jenkins said, “I've been so lucky to dedicate my life, since 1975,

to Italian food. Sometime  back  then I  also met my wife. My  career  took  off  in  1978 when we

st, at a traveled to Italy,  discovered Fontina  cheese  and introduced it to Americans. Fontina  cheese  has been made in the Aosta Valley,  a small region  in the Alps, since  the 12th century.  Up to then Americans  thought  it  came  from  Sweden  and  Denmark.  There  is  indeed  a  cheese  made  there labeled Fontina, and it can be distinguished from Italian Fontina by its red wax rind and milder flavor. I knew I had to bring these unknown products to the US, educate consumers and cooks. All real cooks had to have the real thing in their kitchens.”

Jenkins is credited with having introduced countless cheeses and other foodstuff to New Yorkers, and subsequently the rest  of the US,  and  continues to  generate remarkable  publicity  and  public awareness for food artisans and artisanal foods. “A few years back,” Jenkins continued to explain, “I was invited by the Italian Trade Commission to an event featuring Italian products. Everybody was paying attention to the chefs and nobody as paying attention to me. But it's important to give retailers the credit they deserve. We are the ones who promote your products.”

Jenkins,  who  played  a  big  role  in  the  introduction  of  products  like  balsamic  vinegar,  colatura anchovy sauce and saba,  was recently named one of the 25 most important people in the history of the American specialty foods industry.

“This  award  could  not  be  more  deserved,”  Fred  Plotkin,  gourmand,  author  of  “Italy  for  the Gourmet Traveler” and a guest at the evening said, “Jenkins has always been essential in educating Americans to recognizing Italian products and enjoying them. He was always in the store, talking, tasting, comparing...”

The  award  ceremony  was  followed  by  a  jazz  concert  featuring  acclaimed  Italian  jazz  talent

Gianluca Pellerito and his quintet. Pellerito was the youngest musician in the world to play at the Blue  Note  at  just  age  fourteen.  

Performances  include  eight  seasons  at  Umbria  Jazz,  the  2012 London Olympics,  an  exhibition show for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  and  a performance upon invitation from the Kennedy family at the Kennedy Center to name a few. 

As he was playing, guests were enjoying platters of Prosciutto di Parma DOP and Arista di Maiale (both from  Parmacotto  USA);  Asiago  DOP,  Piave  DOP  and  Grana  Padano  DOP  (from  Agriform); focaccia  bread seasoned  with  Badia  a  Coltibuono  evoo,  Cesare  Casella  Tuscan  evoo,  Colavita evoo, Colonna  evoo,  Galuffo  evoo, La Baita  evoo,  Monini  evoo  and Terre  di  Grifonetto  evoo.

Everything was more savory paired with Maschio Prosecco Brut DOC.