Xavier Naville, "The Lettuce Diaries: How A Frenchman Found Gold Growing Vegetables In China" (Earnshaw Books, 2021)


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Many Western entrepreneurs and businesses have foundered in trying to set up shop in China. Different expectations, different ways of doing business, different institutions and platforms—all come together to remove any pretensions that one can easily transplant a foreign business model into the Chinese market.

One of these entrepreneurs was Xavier Naville, who moved to China in 1997 where he built Creative Food. Unlike many others, his venture was a success. It's now a key supplier to major restaurant chains across the country including McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks.

The Lettuce Diaries: How A Frenchman Found Gold Growing Vegetables In China tells Xavier’s story growing Creative Foods: managing a Chinese team as a foreign manager, trying to work with farmers to improve how they conducted agriculture, and navigating investor demands.

In this interview, Xavier and I talk about his time in China, what he learned about starting a business, and whether things are different in a more developed, more advanced economy.

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The Lettuce Diaries. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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98 episodes