Westminster Kingsway College student Enrico Rizzi is celebrating this morning after winning big at the inaugural Westminster Business Council Awards.
Enrico won the Most Outstanding Young Person in Business category for his work – with fellow student Alan Manni – to create a brand new crispy snack called Polenties, which mixes polenta with a secret blend of Japanese Nori seaweed and other flavours to create a healthy snack.
Polenta is Italian in origin and is made from ground cornmeal. It’s a carbohydrate, 100% gluten-free, vegetarian, is low in fat and has many other health benefits. After Enrico discovered he had a gluten intolerance last year, he wanted to create a product that was accessible for everyone regardless of their intolerances and lifestyle choices, so Polenties is also suitable for people who are vegetarians and celiac, vegan and dairy intolerant.
The Westminster Business Council Awards took place on 22 October 2019 at The National Liberal Club in London’s Whitehall. The awards celebrate talent, ingenuity, innovation and business excellence in Westminster, and showcased the significance of Westminster as an outstanding place to do business.
Enrico told us: “I was inspired to create Polenties by the story of Fernando Rizzi, my great great grandfather. My grandmother told me that just after the second world war, when food was a luxury and people had to find ways to survive on what little they had, my grandfather was struggling to provide for his wife and child. Fernando thought of making a type of polenta bread, as polenta was both cheap and available at that time. From this he then experimented with different ingredients making cakes and even crisps, which is where our idea for Polenties came from.”
Having developed their product, Enrico and Alan researched their target markets carefully and analysed the very tough snack market, where established giants like Walkers and Pringles make it very hard for new entrants to break in to the market.
Enrico is justifiably proud of his product: “Our Polenties have a great flavour and a bold design; our packaging is bold we are proud to stand out. With our sachets inside giving the Italian polenta a Japanese tang, the two flavours complement each other like a ying to a yang!”
Enrico learned his catering skills at Westminster Kingsway College, studying for three years at on our Professional Chef Diploma course, which has been the springboard for many people to a successful culinary career, from Jamie Oliver and Ainsley Harriott to Ben Murphy and Sophie Wright. He is now on our Foundation Degree course in Culinary Arts and Business Management which will lead on him onto a Bachelor’s Degree.
Enrico says: “On the course, we learn about the science in food and how its shapes our world, food development and the development of food trends. We also explore gastronomy, dietary and religious requirements. We also learn about the HR side of the hospitality world, for example reviewing CVs, marketing strategies, Porter’s Five Forces analysis, and managing people and a team.
As well as the theory, Enrico has also a lot of practical retail and culinary experience, working in retail for Nespresso after being headhunted from John Lewis & Partners, and in catering roles at Hampton Court Palace and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.
So what’s next for Polenties? Enrico says: “I am still trying to perfect the product and how it’s made, so that it can be batch produced and to a consistent quality every time. I am also working closely with Wendy from the college and William – a marketing and production mentor who Wendy brought in to support me. I hope that in the near future Polenties will be hitting the shelves in a shop near you!”