Story by Emma Jones

Many people work to afford life’s pleasures. Since graduating from university and spending the past 3 months training as a waitress at Jamie’s Italian in Kingston I’ve discovered a place where work is pleasure. And what a delicious journey it has been so far”¦

After the training week where I devoured the details of our menu and sampled a selection of our famous favourites, my mind and appetite felt equally full to burst. My trainer Frank shared every story behind the Jamie’s experience, from Mike the Woodsman who carves our serving boards, to why our Labelle Rouge chickens taste ‘happy’. The story, however, that our flatbread Carta di Musica is so-called because of its round resemblance to a DJ’s Deck was maybe a bit far-fetched.

I think the highlight of the training was the Summer Menu Cook-off, hosted by the man himself – Gennaro Contaldo. Gennaro breathes life into the dishes with stories of his childhood around the Amalfi coast. There was a vibrant atmosphere of inclusion and enjoyment; every waiter tasted the new dishes on the menu. The food tasted authentic, fresh and organic. How many other jobs require you to eat an amazing 10-course meal as part of the vocational training programme?

However, just as the Italians know how to work as hard as they play, working at Jamie’s isn’t always long leisurely lunches! Admittedly, the busiest shifts initially felt like stepping into a tornado – a flurry of intensity with chef shouting ‘service’ as you weave through the heat, balancing bowls, frantically trying to stay on top of your tables all the while appearing calm, charismatic and, you pray, competent! Yet, while it’s undeniable that the role sometimes demands every ounce of energy you can summon, it all comes flooding back when you see the genuine joy the experience has brought the customers, especially when they write in and thank you personally.

Above all, we work and play together: supporting each other, communicating effectively and having lots of fun (usually all in one!) I’d noticed the warmth and vivacity of the team at Kingston when I’d eaten there before, but behind the scenes you realise none of it is a show, they truly have as much of a blast as every customer that leaves our doors. Maybe there’s something in the pasta. It’s that buzz, the special ingredient, the reason you end a shift still laughing and come back for second helpings the next day.

About the author: Emma Jones is a waitress at Jamie’s Italian, Kingston

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