A few weeks back (yes, I’m a little behind on getting this up), I mentioned that I was interviewing Carlo Besozzi, creator of WhateverFood.com.
Carlo was gracious enough to grant me an interview, and was excited to talk about his project. Carlo is passionate about food and a lot of that stems from his upbringing. Born and raised in Milan, Italy, he moved to the U.S. late last summer. He has been a vegan for many years now and is looking to tackle an issue that all vegans deal with – trying to determine which packaged foods are suitable for consumption. Remember the pork enzymes in the Cheetos? That’s the kind of stuff he’s worried about.
And he’s right. We know very little about what’s in the packaged foods we buy at the grocery store – what the heck is in a Pop-Tart? What are Gushers? What about Jello? Carlo’s site started out as a project to help vegans, but after encouragement from his girlfriend/partner-in-crime Carole, the site expanded to include all foods and many different types of restrictive diets – including vegetarian, celiac, kosher, halal – as well as addressing allergy concerns. Foods on WhateverFood.com can also be broken down into eggs-free, milk-free, nut-free, gluten-free and other subcategories.
And his site is a wiki – which means you can help with his project. It’s still undergoing beta testing, but feel free to jump on in and look around. If you are interested in beta testing, create an account using the box in the left toolbar and Carlo will be in touch.
Here’s an audio version of our interview.
Or, here’s a transcript of the above audio:
Well, tell us a little about your site, Whateverfood.com.
It’s a kind of wiki where people can share their knowledge, but its all focused on packaged food so that everybody can share their common knowledge on foods and ingredients and special diets that need special kind of foods. Like celiacs, lactose intolerants, vegan kosher, halal. There are a bunch of people who are choosing for whatever reason not to eat stuff. It’s really hard. I see on lots of forums that people are trying to communicate with each other but I thought maybe a wiki where you can just search for vegan strawberry cupcakes and you could get all the results – it would be awesome. So I made it.
What have been the big challenges when making this site?
Thinking about everything cause nothing is standardized and I’m just one person. I have to think of two thousand aspects from the structure to the graphic appearance and sometimes you try to do your best, but you just don’t know. The users will tell me if it’s good or not.
How long have you been working on this site?
I think that if I summed all the days probably two months, two months and a half.
Where do you hope to go from here with the site? If you could look years down the road at how it’s going to expand, what would your hopes be for that?
My hopes are to build some kind of packaged food, community-driven site. I mean, a place where people can talk about – you can do at your home a lot of stuff but not all the people have time and patience and knowledge to prepare a lasagna or vegetarian hamburgers, so a lot of people go to the grocery store [to get it]. So I think that a place where you can talk and you can share this type of knowledge is important and I want it to be as social as possible – a kind of “food Facebook.” But that’s the goal, I mean, get people talking about food.
So you’re going to have it integrated into all different forms of social media?
And you’re going to try to integrate it into the blog world as well?
Yeah, I would love to be able to maintain on the same platform a couple of blogs. There are a lot of different topics about foods – a lot about packaged foods – that I think are so wide and it’s interesting. If you look at the average kitchen, you see so many packages and our knowledge about these packages is so small that there is room to write for a lifetime.
When do you hope to launch the site?
I hope in one month. I want to go on beta test and I think as many people with patience and will to help and give feedback as possible for one months, two months and we’ll see what happens and then find sponsorships to try to maintain it with donations.