Geri Ramaj and her husband own The Olive Pizzeria in Wareham, Dorset. She’s not very keen on being photographed but reassures me that the picture really is of her! You can keep up with goings-on at The Olive Pizzeria by Twitter (@theolivepizza) or on their blog, theolivepizzeria.blogspot.com.
Many misty years ago there was a time I was single, free as a bird, a little daft and terribly bored. I had worked in hotels as a restaurant manager and all the dramatic goings on of the live-in student staff, which invariably ended in running breakfast with a half drunken and half absent crew, had lost their appeal by the ripe old age of 24.
So I moved to larger restaurant chains and chanced upon being trained in the pizza kitchens of a glossy Northern town by a rather lovely foreign lad, whom had driven HGV’s all his life and loved it, but lack of work in the UK had driven him into the kitchens of branded chains and by chance he discovered that he was in fact an extremely adept chef.
We spent several months courting, moved in together and got engaged as soon as it wasn’t deemed obscenely fast. Then we discovered just as fast that baby number one had put in a bid for acknowledgement. Without a solid plan for the future and with the rigmarole of the UK visa system we found ourselves somewhat without wheels so I became a housewife and HE continued as a chef. Baby number 2 appeared a year and a bit later, and whilst pregnant I retrained as a book-keeper and went to work for a local charity part-time.
When the monkeys were 3 and 1, we stumbled on an opportunity to help a business fella set up as a first time restaurateur. So we we both returned to work with the help of a child minder and overlapping shifts. After a year of grueling schedules and zero family time we knew that something had to give. We’d been toying with the idea of our own place since our first date and following late night plans for world domination. Now we had other futures to consider.
We found a place nearby which we knew had been empty for a good while, haggled the contract around until we didn’t have to stump up a premium and began begging around family and friends for a few shiny coppers. I stayed up two nights in a row editing a million gazillion page business plan for the bank man, who irritatingly looked at the summary and credit check then applied for a governmen-backed loan, which luckily we got.
So we had some cash, a very expensive solicitor and an empty place. What we didn’t have was any clue how expensive and complicated it was to set up from scratch. What we did know is how we didn’t want it to end up. We didn’t want it to be too flash or modern for families to feel at ease, not too up market for the common man and definitely not the big brand buy-it-in-shove-it-out kind of place.
So we spent a small fortune on a decent oven, and made up for it by 3 weeks hard graft painting, sanding , laying flooring and rounding up curious infants, usually covered in emulsion and chocolate! But we had our own place.
We have completed our first year, and had baby number 3, gone through a hundred staff, changed the décor and set up week by week as we grew and learned. This year was twice as busy as last, so fingers crossed, alarms set, uniforms ready, packed lunches in the fridge…..and off we go!