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Turning Back Time

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1975 or 76.  New Year’s Day around 5pm. I can remember every detail. Lunch was always 2.30pm so second pudding was served early evening. Green stuffed olives stolen from the salad around noon, I was clearly an early aperitivo adopter. We only ever got two jars of olives a year so it was a stealth tactic to get your hands on one single savoury delight. Why? Well when you’re the youngest of eight you need tactics. Chicken soup, macaroni (what we now call taglierini), turkey, Christmas pudding. In that order. When you’re 5 you might be lucky to like one of the above. So the true highlight, pudding number two, Neapolitan ice cream, was to be served in front of the fire watching Morcombe and Wise. Excellent! Again when you’re 5, the time from getting out of bed to 5pm felt like a year, especially when you’ve just had one olive, even though it’s just the 1st of January.

Dinner service in our family is in age order. You can see where this is going, Nonna Cafe first, then Nonna Grampa, Grampa, my father, big brother first of the siblings; the tub of ice cream was getting smaller.

We lived above our own ice cream shop. Ice cream was served for breakfast, lunch and dinner the rest of the year but it was only ever vanilla. Neapolitan had chocolate and strawberry too. Oh my goodness that was exotic. This ice cream wasn’t homemade, pure luxury. How I’ve changed. By the time number six child had been served; I’d lost it.  Tears and more tears. I ended up with no ice cream, and packed off to bed. Punishment enough as we didn’t have central heating. It was like time travel from the Sahara to the Arctic.

Trauma is the wrong word but at the time it was significant and capturing that moment has shaped part of who I am. Number eight and don’t like sharing.

I am generous. I know I’m not mean. For those I love I’ll easily give them everything. I love giving, truly it’s one of the great pleasures. It’s probably why I love running our restaurants as we get to give beautiful food to lovely people. It’s probably also why I’m not good at hosting at reception, having to wait was part of growing up but some customers might not agree. However, I’ve probably not been the best at sharing. Please don’t ask to taste my pudding, it’s not allowed.

Where is this going?

Our Contini Training Academy had been on the agenda before Covid but became a tangible addition to our recruitment strategy last year. When the challenges of recruitment were at their highest it became a solution to help our problem.  Hospitality is highly competitive. There are more restaurants in Edinburgh per capita than there are in London. That puts pressure on delivering an even better product and sourcing the best team to be able to do so. Trying to always maintain an edge or hold onto your USP is vital. Until now I’ve not shared part of how we’re trying to do this.

Emma, our HR Manager, is an amazing member of the team. She’s been with us for over five years and keeps us compliant but more importantly develops and supports the team’s health and wellbeing. She really is all about the people. She introduced our Employee Assistance Programme back in 2019. Our vision for the Academy was tasked to her. Through various channels and tried and failed recruits she met and developed a partnership for us with Sarah of SD Consultancy. Our Contini Training Academy has been nurtured and developed by Emma and Sarah.

In an ice cream moment, I wouldn’t have previously shared these details. I’ve always been scared that we’d share too much and give away our secrets.

On Wednesday I was filmed by Sarah and her company and I’m really proud of what Emma, Sarah and the hard work of our team both in the Academy and supporting the team around the Academy have achieved. Their commitment to developing skills to make individuals better, our business better and raising the skills in hospitality as a sector are cause for celebration and sharing. We’re seeing more and more team sign up. We hope that’s a reason to join our business. Hospitality is a career for life. If other businesses are able to benefit from training their teams and we’re upskilling the whole sector then we’re all benefiting from sharing. We’ll be posting the video over the next few weeks.

I’m sharing my Neapolitan ice cream learning.

We can all learn from our past, even when it’s when we get an extra hour in bed to think about it (clocks have gone back, remember). It’s much better to be proud to be part of something bigger than alone with no ice cream.

Keep well and it’s never the wrong time to share your ice cream


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