I wish someone had told me that baking, business and life aren’t so different after all

Having already baked a Christmas cake for a client, Carel approached me with what seemed like a very simple task (at first): bake a cake for each CN&CO team mate that would represent their individuality and character. Easy! Well at least I had thought….

So off I ventured into my Nonna’s house which happens to be next door mine and approached her with the task that had been presented to me by Carel. Much to my surprise, her reaction was very different to mine. She gawked at me as her eyes grew larger and remarked in her very strong Italian accent, “15, are you mad!” to which I responded with an awkward giggle and encouraged her that we were the ‘dream team’ and nothing was impossible in ‘Nonna’s kitchen’ and so, the process of creating personalised cakes began.

“A tavola nessun diventa vecchia,” as the Italian saying goes … “At the table, no one grows old.” As most Mediterraneans would know, almost everything important that take place in our households happen in the kitchen – more specifically – in nonna’s kitchen!

My nonna has always been my biggest role model and certainly my greatest blessing. She makes every moment magical. She is fearless. She carries an abundance of compassion. She is couragious, sincere and displays respect for herself and others. She has a quiet confidence that shines brightly. She loves from the depth of her soul. She is the places she has been to, people she has met and dreams she has fulfilled – all wrapped up in a perfect, elegant parcel. She is the sparkle in my eyes and the fire in my heart. She is unlike any other, all that I aspire to be and we are who we are because of everything our matriarch is.

Having spent lots of time in the kitchen, I learnt that cooking and baking requires a tremendous amount of thought, planning and a dash of magic, in order to really be impactful. A bit like CN&CO! As a team, we are unique, diverse ingredients, combined perfectly to create a special team, a unique lifestyle business. Our personalities are our business cards and the impression we leave people with becomes our trademark.

Baking the perfect cake is a process. From combining the ingredients to perfecting the cooking temperature, right until the final cherry is placed on top of the cake for decoration, focus is needed. In baking, business and in life, success does not come from what we do occasionally – it comes from what we do consistently. The process may not be easy but the more love, care and attention that gets puts into the project, the better the final product will be.  Many similarities, again, with my CN&CO team.

Nonna taught me never to wake up with the intention of being mediocre. I was always encouraged to step out of my comfort zone, to challenge the norm, to dream big and to MAKE IT HAPPEN!  With eight members of my family having lived under one roof, nonna taught us to praise the skills of others; to know each other’s strength and weaknesses; to maximise the strengths and encourage one another to challenge one’s weaknesses because a group of people become a team when each member is sure enough to be themselves. CN&CO is at its best when our 13 fabulous team mates bring their authentic best self to the team.

The most daunting part of the whole cake making process was the two flopped carrot cakes that not only set the deepest anxiety in the pit of my stomach but also made Nonna and I feel somewhat incompetent despite the 10 cakes we had already successfully finished. At CN&CO we believe that business is life, and life is business. The goal for each is to not just be successful but to be make a difference. More often then not, in work and in life, we are challenged in ways that test our character, our drive and our competency. These challenges should not break us, but rather strengthen us and encourage us to push forward, see things differently and also recognise that perfection is not always attainable. We all make mistakes. However, it is not the mistakes that make us, it is how we fix them that matters. So after two charred carrot cakes, a great deal of anxiety and a willingness to give up, Nonna and I persevered and in doing so managed to churn out an even better carrot cake bringing the total of the cakes we made to a whopping 15 . 

A few flops later, a couple of undercooked cakes, a flour fight or two and numerous kitchen meltdown’s its safe to say that cake baking, much like life isn’t for the faint hearted. All we can really do is embrace the task, overcome the challenges, add a sprinkle of magic, mix all the ingredients together, and be proud of the final product.

And so, ‘La cucina della Nonna’ comes to an end. Until next time, MANGIA, MANGIA, MANGIA!