Francesco Fusco

Updated: 08 Oct 2012 | By:

Francesco Fusco is the youngest barista trainer from Università del caffè – Illy Tireste. At age 21, Francesco is to overlook all the training for illy in the whole Asia Pacific region. Travel across half the globe from Naples in Italy, the humble young chap told us how he sees the world and what makes him so lucky.

How did you get this job with illy?
I was registered to a job agency in Italy during my study in Federico II University of Naples. My agent contacted me as they were looking for 20 people to work for illy and I was shortlisted. All twenty of us went to Trieste to attend a barista course for a month then they selected 12 people and out of which eight were sent to Paris, I was one of the eight. 4 months after working in Paris, they offered me this job to come to Asia to improve my skills and knowledge about the coffee culture here, I decided to take this job and left uni where I was studying hospitality.

What does illy brand mean to you?

To me illy is an opportunity of a lifetime. I knew that the company respects coffee growers a lot because I was interested in fair trade, that’s why I chose to go for the interview. After that, I fell in love with the company for their attention to quality. The company is like a big family and I am constantly getting support from them. This is my very first career and I am already given the chance to go out of the country to explore.

Why is the interest in fair trade?

It is my personal passion to be involved in the fair trade for its value and ecologic idea. Many companies buy products at a very cheap rate but fair trade is like a watchdog so that the growers are paid what they deserve, I feel that we should be fair to them. I also love projects that involve preserving the ecology. I once joined a workshop organised by a music band in Italy to be involved in their instruments reproduced using recycled wastes. I have always paid attention to matters like this so when this job offers to work for a company that shares my idea, I just can’t say no.

Can you tell us what your role is?
I am a barista trainer who train barista and to help grow the coffee culture in them. I look after Asia Pacific and I am very excited because it’s a good opportunity. It’s just the beginning and also my first career after university.

Have you visited the illy plantation?
Not yet because there is none in Italy, but I would love to visit a plantation someday in South America or Africa and do the fruit picking myself.

Do you find yourself too young to be in this position?
I think I’m very lucky to have found this job. I think whether you are ready or not is not about your age, but whether you are able and willing to learn from others. No, I don’t feel myself too young at all to be doing this.

When you were studying hospitality, what did you originally think you were going to do?

I was very interested in hospitality and wanted to get into hotel management. When I went for the interview for my current role though, I wanted to catch this opportunity. I feel that I am very lucky to be here now because I had an open mind when something different was offered to me. Most of my friends now are working behind the desk, but I am out here doing something completely different and interesting.

What differentiate you from others your age when it comes to choosing a career?
Maybe the others my age just don’t have this opportunity? I am very lucky, but I think that even with luck, you still need to be brave and step out of your comfort zone. I am far away from home, many of my friends won’t give up to go away like this. Other than that, I am also very passionate about working in hospitality and being a barista trainer let me help others in the same line of work. You can make very good coffee but your customers are also very important. That’s why I think the skills in how to man your bar and the attitude towards your customers are very important, not just your skills in making coffee.

What does your family think about you travelling so far across the world for this job?
They are very happy for me of course! They know it is good for my personal and professional growth and they are very supportive. It is very important to me that they know what I am doing.

Are you the first one among your friends to work overseas?
Yes I am. Some of my friends tried working outside of Italy but they returned very soon because of their studies. For me it’s my decision to work instead of continuing to study.

Which was the first country you travelled to in Asia?
China. I was in Shanghai for 2 weeks. It was such a new and big city with so many high buildings. It didn’t feel like China, more like New York! I never thought Shanghai could be like this. It is a business centre and you can see many westerners too who work there.

Which are the cities in Asia you wish to see the most?
I wish to go back to Shanghai again and hopefully get to see more of Kuala Lumpur. India is an interesting country I would like to go and then it’s Beijing, Hong Kong and maybe one day, Australia. Asia is so different from Europe, every day you see and experience different things from that of your own country, it is very interesting. The first time they took me for Chinese food, we had “char siew” and “siu yok”. I like to try the local food because if you visit a city and not try the local food to learn about the culture and their background, it’s like you have not visited the place at all. It’s like going to Rome without seeing the coliseum.

What is your favourite food here?
I like Chinese food here. It is so different from the Chinese food in Italy! At home they westernise the Chinese food, here they feel more authentic.

Did you visit any café here in KL?
Yes I did, I visited espressamente at Pavilion. It is a good location and they have a lot of customers. They are good with their coffee and have trained staff working at the bar, I like it.

What are the qualities a barista need to run a café?
First, to make good coffee of course so that customers have reasons to come back. Second, to be nice to your customers, and fun because your customers want to feel relax in the café. Also, to make them feel at home.

Do you think Italians make the best baristas?
Italians are very good in making espresso based coffee because most of us drink coffee, a lot of it but many don’t really understand the background because we don’t have plantations. Most of us from Italy don’t have a culture for coffee. For example, we drink coffee since we’re children, but mostly Italians don’t know where coffee comes from. So, that depends.

Is there a favourite bar in Napoli that you always go?
Yes, it’s one that’s on a lake called Cycas Café. The location of the café is very good, you can sit inside or outside and can enjoy the fresh environment. It is frequented by many young people and the quality of their beverages is high. The people running the place are nice and the place is very clean. This is very important, because if a bar is dirty I just find it hard to be comfortable and probably will not return again.

What do you usually order in the café?

Depends on what time I am there. Usually I don’t order coffee at Cycas because I was never there in the morning (I usually drink coffee only in the morning though most Italians drink coffee any time of the day) because it’s pretty far from where I live. When I am there in the afternoon or evening, I’d order some liquor.

Do you know how to make cocktails?

Yes, coffee cocktails. I like my espresso in the morning! I don’t really like cocktails in Italy because not many people are good at making them and they are not balance so sometimes I prefer to just drink liquor. I don’t have my own coffee cocktail yet but I am working on it and hopefully I will have one soon.

Is there a specific type of spirit you like?

Rum. Others are too strong but rum is easy. Just a little bit (emphasized: a little)

Have you encountered any obstacle in your current role during training because of your young age?
People don’t ask me about my age or where I am from or even my background. Like in Shanghai, the people I went to train were very eager to learn and the only thing they were interested was coffee. To them, I’m the trainer and the person to ask questions about coffee.

Where do you see yourself in 2 years’ time?
At the moment my contract is only for one year and maybe renewed after that but I want to improve my technical skills and teaching style. I want people to learn from me for my experience. My motto is everyday better than the day before. On personal side however, it is an experience to live away from home and this is important for personal growth and open my eyes to the world.

Tags: barista