Il master chef Fundim Gjepali cultivate his passion between Rome, where he is a shareholder of a coffee bar, Tirana, where he runs the restaurant Padam e Shijak, where he is building a farmhouse.
He says that the Padam restaurant, one of the most famous in Tirana, has realized his dream of seeing foreign tourists in his shop:
"I come from a merchant family from the times of Zogu I; I have already realized a dream, that is to see the strangers I had seen at the Dajti hotel coming to the Padam " He says.
Fundim has given importance to Albanian products: "Many products of my country have been transformed". He was one of the first to present Albanian wines despite the general skepticism he had encountered. In business dinners, his offer always includes Albanian products: "Why drink an Italian bitter and not the Albanian 'rakia'?" continues Gjepali, adding that in Albania some products are available which in other countries, such as France and Italy, would be a luxury.
According to the chef, this is an important moment in the history of Albania because people spend their savings or ask the banks for loans to invest in their country. It was love and passion for Albania that prompted Fundim Gjepali to do something in his country, although in Rome, where he is a shareholder of one of the most important restaurants in the capital, he found himself very well.
In addition, Fundim has been making steady progress for some years in the creation of a farm-farm in Shijak, a city where its family had its own lands, continuing the breeding of poultry and livestock in order to base its cuisine on products organic. The chef has thought of everything in this regard, given that since 7-8 years - then people took him for a fool - he is growing corn and wheat in his land.
He is investing in the family lands to try to revive his grandmother's traditional cuisine: the support has never been lacking, neither by the municipality of Shijak nor by the ministry of agriculture. The total investment amounts to approximately 40 million leke and plans to use 20 inhabitants of the area for field processing. The return on investment should be rapid in about two years because, as he himself confirms, these companies have a rapid return.
The main objective of the agritourisms, continues Gjepali, is to consume organic products processed in the local area. A good example of how farmhouses promote the development of the entire country is the "Mrizi i Zanave"To Fishtë in the city of Alessio (Lezha). Moreover, the investment in the Shijak area will be a stimulus for all the inhabitants of the area to increase their productions.
Cattle meat is produced on the farm like milk; fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, will be grown both on its own land and purchased by local workers.
The risk of over-investment
As in every sector in which the simplest activity is to copy the other as soon as we see that it is doing well, even the farm holiday sector is endangered by excessive investments:
"There are a lot of people trying to create a restaurant or an agritourism in small villages. In the end there will be a natural selection and the opportunity to work only for those who make the difference " - says Fundim Gjepali.
The potential of the farm
In the 2017 Albania has been visited by a record number of foreigners, 5,1 million, with an increase of 8,1% compared to the previous year. Also this year the trend should be gradually increasing. Hotels in the Golem area have already been booked for the season from May to September.
This year there has been an increase in bookings by Nordic citizens, which should "experiment" with restaurants in the Tirana and Durazzo areas. For this reason, even though most of the farm holiday clients are local, tourism could prove to be a key element in the potential of the agritourism sector, pushing visitors towards places like those of Gjepali in their gastronomic tours.
This article was originally published in Albanian on monitor.al by Title "Agroturizëm / Mastershef Fundim Gjepali, mes Romës, Tiranës dhe fermës së re në Shijak"
- Albania with the master chef Fundim Gjepali on the International Tourism Exchange - BIT, Milan
- Kuzhinierë shqiptarë në Itali, historitë and dy emigrantëve ambiciozë (in Albanian)
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