Enveloped in the organic ambience of this food market; I speak to Alex Ander, now 24, born in the Netherlands who arrived in London via Florence, about to end his shift. A proud Fiorentina fan; after calling it home for 22 years, he reminisces ‘Italy is always home’. Maybe, that’s what attracted him to the Mercato Metropolitano, its Italian artisanal heritage. I dig deeper, to discover there is a lot more behind his path merging with this superb food market.
After studying Gastronomy at degree-level in Fiorentina and then completing a masters in Travel and Tourism at the University of Westminster, he has quickly rose through the ranks in 3 months and now is a manager in the making. Although; playing tennis with the General Manager, Alessia, in his down time may have had an impact.
Speaking candidly, he admits the transition from university life to his full-time role has been a learning curve and his job does not come without sacrifice ‘even last year I was partying, but now I have understood real work – in a few days I will have 7 events in one day’, whereas previously he had only sampled part-time work as a bartender and youth worker. Alex sees this as the key cultural difference between the classic Florence and bustling cosmopolitan city that is London, ‘Italian culture has failed to embrace the youth by only giving them limited roles’ professionally. In contrast, London and specifically the Mercato Metropolitano sees the youth as the future.
Alex comes across charismatic, yet humble. ‘I did communication sciences skills in my masters and use it to builds good relationships’, his favourite part is meeting customers and workers alike under this ‘roof of food and music’. He eloquently answers with a relaxed demeanour, what it is that makes the Mercato Metropolitano special, ‘do you see any big brands around here like Coca Cola? No. We create jobs for local people with local products, promoting and investing in local farmers. Giving back to the community, not only in an economic aspect but also to the children – we offer free cooking classes for children, where parents can learn too’. ‘Healthy food can be simple yet affordable’. The key word is ‘we’ – he sees it a team effort, a ‘little village’ and envisions this little market expanding.
Expressing how the Mercato Metropolitano has rose from the ashes of an old paper factory to the social hub of Elephant & Castle captures Alex’s dedication to this project. As the evening crowd disperses Alex hints to the future: ‘I would like to open my own place; no rush, I am 24’.