Turn­ing Food Passion Into Busi­ness

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Kayla Cloete Im­ages © Jamie’s Ital­ian

Founded by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, and his Ital­ian men­tor, Chef Gen­naro Con­taldo, in 2008, Jamie’s Ital­ian is a re­sound­ingly suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional restau­rant fran­chise with over 60 eater­ies world­wide. The ex­cite­ment was nearly tan­gi­ble when it was an­nounced that a Jamie’s Ital­ian would reach the shores of South Africa. Brought to us by a group of pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­u­als who have a flare for de­vel­op­ing the restau­rant industry, Jamie’s Ital­ian opened its doors in Mel­rose North, Jo­han­nes­burg, and has been de­light­ing pa­trons with its Ital­ian flavours.

One of the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for this ex­cel­lent culi­nary ad­di­tion to the City of Gold is CEO and share­holder of Jamie’s Ital­ian South Africa, Stephen Ger­sowsky.

Ger­sowsky has over 24 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the restau­rant industry, work­ing as a res­tau­ra­teur as well as a de­vel­oper and mo­ti­va­tor for many well-known culi­nary brands. He was the re­gional op­er­a­tions man­ager for the Pa­narot­tis fran­chise in Gauteng in the early days of his ca­reer. In the fol­low­ing years Ger­sowsky han­dled be­tween 40 and 50 res­tau­rants as the chief op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor for a restau­rant group based in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Seek­ing a slice of the in­ter­na­tional pie, Ger­sowsky moved to Lon­don to work for a con­tem­po­rary Bel­gian restau­rant group. With his in­put, the group added new res­tau­rants to their col­lec­tion and strength­ened their brand.

But, as the say­ing goes, there is no place like home. Ger­sowsky soon de­cided to re­lo­cate to South Africa where he opened Zero 932, a high-end, con­tem­po­rary Bel­gian restau­rant sim­i­lar to what he had worked on in the United King­dom, but with added lo­cal flavours.

Adding to his long list of culi­nary ac­com­plish­ments, Ger­sowsky then started a hos­pi­tal­ity con­sult­ing group with strate­gic al­liances in Sin­ga­pore, Syd­ney, and Dubai. The aim of this un­der­tak­ing was to de­velop brands from South Africa and Aus­tralia in the Mid­dle East. At the same time, Ger­sowsky part­nered with his brother to take over own­er­ship of the La Cuc­cina restau­rant in Hout Bay, near Cape Town.

Fam­ily has al­ways played an im­por­tant role in Ger­sowsky’s ca­reer jour­ney. When asked who he ad­mires, Ger­sowsky replies: “Men­tor­ship comes in dif­fer­ent guises. The key thing is to keep learn­ing. I draw in­spi­ra­tion, lead­er­ship, and men­tor­ship from a whole host of peo­ple from all in­dus­tries. I look up to peo­ple who can grow and de­velop my abil­ity to lead, to in­spire, and to give pur­pose to my­self and, in turn, pro­vide pur­pose to oth­ers. My 10-yearold is prob­a­bly more of a role model to me than any­one else.”

Never one to turn down a new chal­lenge, Ger­sowsky jumped at the prospect of open­ing and run­ning South Africa’s first Jamie’s Ital­ian restau­rant. When asked about the rea­son for his de­ci­sion, Ger­sowsky ex­plains, “Jamie’s Ital­ian is more than a restau­rant to me. It’s about the per­sona of the brand. It’s about the cul­ture and food ethos that en­com­passes this restau­rant.

“I love the ide­ol­ogy, in­tegrity, and phi­los­o­phy of Jamie’s Ital­ian. At Jamie’s Ital­ian we are able to work with sea­sonal, or­ganic, and free-range pro­duce, smaller farm­ers, trace the ori­gins of prod­ucts, and truly un­der­stand the orig­i­nal­ity of Ital­ian cui­sine and its flex­i­bil­ity.”

For a de­li­cious meal of in­ter­na­tional ac­claim, be sure to visit Jamie’s Ital­ian at Mel­rose Arch in Jo­han­nes­burg, open from Mon­day to Sun­day from 11h30 to 23h00.

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.jamieo­liver.com/ital­ian/south-africa.

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