Back home: Romanian returns from Italy to taste success with his own artisan salami business
After cultivating a taste for specialty meats during the years spent in Italy, Alin Macsim returned to Romania to start his own business. He currently produces and sells artisan salami under the brand Gustarea Regelui (which would translate as The King's Snack) in Timisoara and plans to add more tasty goodies to the offer, all crafted using traditional techniques.
Alin Macsim is a 36-year-old foodie who has grown a taste for specialty meats during the years spent studying and working in Italy. Born in Timisoara, the largest city in western Romania, he left the country after high school to continue his studies abroad. That's how he started a new life with many challenges but also equally many achievements, both personally and professionally.
"After graduating high school in 2004, my family and I decided to continue my studies in Italy. We had family friends there, and they advised me to start preparing for the faculty admission exam in Italian, a language I had no contact with until then. After several months of bureaucratic difficulties, because at that time I needed a visa/residence permit, I got to college," Alin Macsim told Romania Insider.
And although he struggled a bit with the language in the first weeks, his efforts paid off quite quickly, and he started to really enjoy his new life away from home.
"It was a time of major change, full of difficulties and satisfactions. Fortunately, there are many things to like in Italy. One can find relaxed people, beautiful cities, wonderful sea and good food anywhere in the country. And since I've loved good food since I was a child, I started to make a passion for it," Alin explained.
A new path opened up for Alin in the second year of college when a doctor he met offered him a job at his practice. His first job in Italy, in a commune close to the sea and the mountains. He kept working there until he graduated from university and moved to Venice, where he found a new job at a clinic. "I worked here for many years, I met many people and different traditions," he recalled.
At this new job, Alin also became friends with some of the patients returning for treatment. And some showed their appreciation by bringing him all kinds of goodies produced by them, especially homemade sausages. That's how he started to discover the taste and special flavours of artisanal salami - a life-changing moment for a foodie like Alin, who has always been passionate about fine foods. Thus, he started to do research and learn about this kind of product, and even had the opportunity to visit some cellars where people produced such delicacies.
"This made me dream that one day I would have my own cellar covered in stone, in which I would cure sausages and cheeses for family and friends," Alin Macsim said. Years later, his dream came true.
In 2017, Alin decided to return to Romania - his true home. Back in Timisoara, he started to flirt a bit with the idea of creating a product similar to the ones he had the opportunity to taste in Italy. However, it took him three years to finally find the courage to take this step.
He made the first tests in a small improvised curing room where he installed temperature and humidity sensors, thermostats and humidifiers, to create the right environment for experiments. Looking back at that moment, he said: "The first results were a failure, but I learned and optimized the whole process until I decided to go ahead and test on friends what I had managed to create."
He ended up liking this whole process so much that he decided to go further and look for a space for a laboratory. After a lengthy process of arranging the space and getting the required approvals, which required an initial investment of EUR 16,000 "plus a few thousand more in the first 2 months," his small business started running. He opened the laboratory in the pandemic year of 2021, and things have been going quite good so far, with both production and demand on an upward trend.
"Once I opened the lab, I needed three months to study all the details to bring the curing room to the parameters required for the products to come out as I wanted, plus the time needed for the first products to be fully cured. But it was worth the wait, and the salami proved successful from the first customer," Alin Macsim said.
The Gustarea Regelui dry-cured salami is not only tasty but also healthier than the other options on the market. It has no nitrites or nitrates, no added sugar, and no starch, vegetable proteins, or dyes. It's made only of pork, salt, pepper, garlic and wine, and the slightly spicy version also contains hot pepper powder.
But Alin wants to add more goodies to his offer and continues experimenting with other product types. For example, he made mortadella after a 150-year-old recipe that he baked for 16 hours, dry-cured sausages after a French recipe from the '20s, fresh sausages with different seasonings, salami specially created for pizza, hot sandwiches, and others.
For now, however, the classic and spicy salami, both dry-cured and wrapped in noble mold, are the only ones constantly produced in Alin's lab. Those who want to try the Gustarea Regelui artisan salami can buy it online, on the Facebook page, but remember that deliveries are made only in Timisoara and its surroundings. The price is RON 110/kg, and a piece weighs around 400 grams.
"Soon, gourmets who appreciate Gustarea Regelui will be able to place orders directly on our website, where we also hope to list the other products we're preparing and patiently waiting to cure. Until then, we stay in touch on Facebook, where our community of friends has gathered," Alin said.
As the interview was coming to an end, he added: "And because I really like what I do here, at home, and I'm glad that I added this dream to my baggage of experiences, I also have a piece of advice for all those who want to return home and start a business. Don't be afraid to do what you love. I would even tell them to obsess about it to the point where they bring the results to the rank of art. Then, the difficulties don't really matter anymore because the satisfaction will come from the others' appreciation for what you produce. More and more young people are returning home and taking this step with courage, and I am happy about that. The market is ready to receive quality products and services. It only takes a little courage or madness and patience."
Irina Marica, email@example.com
(Photos: courtesy of Alin Macsim)