Ferment Island is a COVID baby that has not stopped growing! Joel Xerri put his free time to use by combining his background as a professional chef with top-quality local vegetables he found available. The chilis quickly came to life through a fermentation process and his experimentation with unique flavours and tastes transformed into a Gozo-based business producing homemade hot sauces!
We asked him a few questions about his creative process, his workflow, and what inspires him throughout his local business endeavour. Here’s what he had to say!
il-lokal: Tell us about your creative journey!
Joel: I have been in the kitchen ever since I can remember, helping my mom and doing the bare minimum, just enough to get me intrigued and interested in how the skills of our very own hands, and a few helpful ingredients can turn something plain into something magical! Flavour profiles grow and you become more prone to what you like and what you dislike - a rule we use in our everyday life!
Ferment Island was born during the summer Covid came crashing - for some ruining what they had built and for others, a path to a creative journey. Having been a chef for 6 years and unable to work, I had no choice but to sit down and try and create something out of the situation I was facing. Chilis, along with many other vegetables were cheap during the pandemic so I started experimenting more with fermentation and handing them out to friends and family to get honest and real feedback. People loved them and within a month, Ferment Island was born!
il-lokal: What are the principles that shape your practice?
Joel: I love this question and think certain practices must be done daily. It's sort of like Groundhog Day where everything is repeated. Creating the run of the mill for what you do. Follow those and you will be successful forever!
il-lokal: Where do you find inspiration?
Joel: We tend to do a lot of experimenting! We try out new ideas we come up with and most of the time, they turn out even better than we expected. Having the background of a professional chef, I am familiar with certain flavours and ingredients when it comes to creating a product. Also, social media helps, as well as seeing what other creators in the industry are coming up with. Offer that as a vessel to something we use but with that Ferment Island twist!
il-lokal: What type of music do you like to listen to while working?
Joel: It honestly changes. Sometimes I wake up with a song stuck in my head from days or weeks before and I’ll be humming it all day. Usually, when running errands in the morning I listen to music on Bluetooth in my car so generally while I'm working, I'm either listening to some indie/alternative or rap/hip-hop or I’ll throw on a podcast and get to work!
il-lokal: What is your support system like?
Joel: It’s super good and I honestly would not be where I am without them. Everybody in my life has been supportive from day one and is always showing love regarding how good the products are or just a simple like on a social media post goes a very long way and is super appreciated!
il-lokal: How important is it to have an online presence?
Joel: Social media is super important these days. We are moving into a digital world and unfortunately, the olden way just doesn't cut it anymore! Building your audience is not always about the product you're selling but also about who you are. Getting personal and good expression is the key to having a good product. If you're not passionate about your product, how do you expect other people to be too? It may seem interesting at the time but slowly people start to lose interest.
il-lokal: Who are some local artists/ creative heroes you admire?
Joel: Well, there are tons and so many businesses in the space we have worked with or created a product for. Huge shoutout to everyone who is thinking outside the box and doing something they’re passionate about, coming up with an original idea and not creating something just because you like the idea of what that is! A few spots to mention would be Novi Burger as we have a wicked collaboration with them that is still going strong, Detroit-style pizza, The Bagel Hole, La Luz Bar, and everyone I’m missing! Most importantly, I’d like to give a shout-out to all my supporters and people constantly shedding grace and expressing their love for our products - you all are the heroes and we would not be here without you!
Last but not least to il-lokal for offering a platform and place to share our products with the country and people visiting! Thanks for giving us a chance.
il-lokal: What’s next for you?
Joel: I look forward to 2024 and the exciting activities and events we have lined up! I’m launching a whole new line of products and looking forward to sharing them with all of you. Every day is a new day so we strive to do the best we can and portray that through the products!