EXCLUSIVE Part 2– At home with Jaime Laurita; Let's Talk Wine, Italy and Coffee!
In the first part of our EXCLUSIVE interview with Chef Jaime Laurita in his stunning, custom-designed home, our conversation focused on some of the earlier parts of his career. We talked about what life was like growing up one of eleven children in a big Italian family, where his love of food started, how amazing it was being a private chef to incredible rock legends, and writing his first cook book with Sarah McLachlan. WOW!
The second installment of our interview has Chef Jaime Lauritasharing the personal story of how his wines (Bello Boy Rose Petal Moscato and The Perfect Prosecco) came to be, how the time he spent studying in Italy influenced him, and why he is the ambassador for a coffee company that he calls “the best coffee on the market”.
Thank you AGAIN to Jaime for graciously opening his home to me (and Kari from A Grace Full Life acting as my photographer) for this exclusive interview.
MM&J: Share with us how Bello Boy Rose Petal Moscato and The Perfect Prosecco came to be?
Jaime Laurita: There was a woman that worked in Laurita’s Café named Nancy. Nancy was an Italian woman who was the only one who would come in and talk to me about the love of food. I would watch her make things and we would have many conversations about food and about how passionate she was about cooking for her family. I loved her dearly. She would always bring me roses to the Café and whisper in my ear, “Jaime, you are special. You have to do something to get that out in the world. People love you, you are different”. She was such a motivator for me and she really saved me in so many ways. Nancy would always pinch my cheeks and say, “You’re so handsome, you’re so bello. My bello boy”. So when I thought about doing a product, I had to do something as a nod to Nancy. I love moscato and I love roses. So I thought, “Why can’t I infuse this moscato with rose water to make it something different and unique in the market?” So I went for it – and I called it Bello Boy.
I found Specialty Marketing Group, and they understood what I wanted to do. I do all of my labels and designs; I do all of my own creation of the flavors. I am the creative director of my brand, and I am allowed full creative control. I love partnering with them, and they are wonderful people to work with. We are coming out with a full line of wines; eventually, there will be more flavors than just the prosecco and the moscato. But I wanted to start with two that people could use to party with that were fairly inexpensive. My thought is that prosecco is the new champagne. I’ve always loved it and I think that people are getting used to using it in place of champagne. These are two wines specifically meant to celebrate with. You can even add my prosecco and moscato together with ruby red grapefruit juice to make a Bellini!
[As a side note, Jaime later shared with me that he and his husband, Rich, served prosecco in place of champagne at their wedding, shown in an episode of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey". Snippets of the ceremony can be seen on "Bravo's Top 10 Weddings" that's airing several times over the next ten days - it's Number 6!]
MM&J: Heritage Distributors just picked up Bello Boy Moscato and The Perfect Prosecco – what does that mean for consumers in the Chicago area and nationwide?
Jaime Laurita: What I’ve learned about the grocery business – and the liquor business – is that you have to get good distribution. You have to get people to understand your story. And you have to get distributors interested in your brand because they are the ones that have all of the control in selling it to market. Heritage Distributors is a great company because they understand the quality aspect of what I am doing. They understand my story. They understand that I’m not just slapping my label on a bottle of wine because I can. It’s not about that. This is a lifelong dream of mine to have a product line. I’ve dreamt of this and manifested this ever since I was a little boy. Heritage is the perfect place for me to be in Chicago; it means that my wines will be distributed in the Chicago area in many different ways from banquet halls and grocery stores and little small mom and pop places. They have the means to put it where it belongs. I’m excited to be with Heritage and I’m looking for other distributors to pick up the brand nationwide. It’s really important to me to be with a quality distributor that really understands my story. I don’t want to get lost in some enormous distributor who doesn’t look at me as an artist. I need a boutique, high-end company that thinks, “Hey, this guy is going places.” My wines are not like any other wines that are out there. Authenticity and a great story is what are going to sell your product and that’s why I’m so passionate about mine. I’m the real deal. I’m a very passionate chef; I’m a very passionate entertainer. I love to do those things, and I’ve been doing them my whole life.
MM&J: Do you think that the studying you did in Italy as part of your chef training gives your Italian products a different level of authenticity that other celebrity chef–type products don’t have?
Jaime Laurita: I absolutely 100% know that the experience that I had in Italy makes a difference. I could write a book just on my time in Italy! When I was in culinary school, the dream for a chef was to travel abroad. For me, I was told that it wasn’t easy. When you tell me something’s not easy, I make it happen. I went for a scholarship from the ICIF, the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, and it led me to a place where I was able to travel throughout Italy; from region to region, meeting regional chefs. I’m talking about the smallest restaurants in the vineyards to the largest restaurants in the cities. Sometimes I washed apples, sometimes I peeled carrots, and sometimes I had to slaughter little animals which broke my heart. But at the end of the day, it was an experience that you can’t even imagine or pay for. When I was in the country and I saw and I felt the energy of the food and the people and the love they have for their food – you can’t buy that. You HAVE to experience that. Talk about the best time of my life! That’s when it was. It was an unbelievable experience and I worked as hard as I possibly could for the people that I was able to get in front of and it led me to the next place, and the next place. So a six-month term turned in to much, much longer because of the passion that I absorbed. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. I love it. I could retire there.
MM&J: You are the spokesperson for Beantrees Organic Coffees. Tell me about them and how you became affiliated with them.
Jaime Laurita: Many years ago, the owner of the company found me backstage and wanted me to give the coffee to Steven Tyler [of Aerosmith]. Because Steven was in to organics and healthy eating, he wanted Steven to be the spokesperson for the coffee. After several months of him stalking me about Steven, he finally decided that it was me that he should be going after for the spokesperson position. I was the one cooking the organic food backstage, and was connected to every major celebrity at that time. I didn’t really have time for it back then – until I tasted the coffee. I am a coffee fanatic! Beantrees is premium coffee – and I only deal with the best. I’m not going to sell myself out or sell myself short. This is the finest coffee that I’ve ever had in my life. [He was drinking it during our entire interview]. I love it. It’s a high quality product, and it’s truly grass roots. The owner of the company, Barrie Gromala, is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I firmly believe that this man deserves to be the next big thing in coffee. I’ve been with him every step of the way. I’m very proud to be a part of this company because I’m the brand ambassador for quality and good style and good products. And this is one of them. I believe that this is the best coffee on the market.