Owen Hazel of Jannettas Gelateria and Cafe in St Andrews tells Caroline Lindsay why he’s vocal about local…
When Owen Hazel married wife Nicola Jannetta 25 years ago, he became part of a family business with almost a century of history behind it.
Owen, who has worked in the food and drink sector since he was 16, tells the story: “Bennett Jannetta came over to Dysart from Monte Cassio in Italy and ran the business with his family Rosa, his wife and three children, Mary, Bennett Jnr and Charlie.
“Initially their business was predominantly a mixture of a tobacconist, sweetie shop and billiards hall. Charlie then took over, developing it into a fish and chip shop with ice cream and sodas, but it was only when Nicola’s mum and Dad (David and Fiona) took over the business that they extended the ice cream range to an impressive 52 flavours, focusing on this along with newspapers and sweeties,” he continues.
“Nicola and I then entered the business, newly married with a very young family. It was fun juggling everything and we slowly got to know and understand the business as well as our customers. We decided to focus on increasing the ice cream flavours and offerings in the gelateria and, when we merged the two businesses, we decided to focus solely on our ice cream and the café.
“Provenance, we decided, would be a key driver for us – buying, supporting and working with local producers wherever we could, ensuring our customers received the finest and tastiest food and drink.
Today, Jannettas offers 54 flavours in the ice cream shop but have a range of over 150 flavours they can produce.
“Customers are ever more adventurous and well travelled so they are looking for something different but also tasty,” says Owen.
Sourcing as many ingredients as locally as possible is especially important to Owen in his current role as brand ambassador for The Courier Menu Food and Drink Awards. Their Tayberry gelato, for example, is sourced from Euan Cameron at family-run Pittormie Fruit Farm.
“We love working with Euan not only because their fruit is so good but also because they are a small intensive farm who use sustainable methods in farming,” says Owen. “They also introduced us to heritage fruits wev weren’t aware of but which work well in our artisanal gelato making processes.”
Jannettas has also worked with another family business, Cairnie Fruit Farm, and produced a local Fife strawberry range for them.
“As well as that we appeal on our Facebook page from time to time for any autumnal fruits such as plums, apples and pears – this has proved extremely ‘fruitful’ and led us to engage with the local community including Cambo Estate near St Andrews.
“We also heard about an ancient pear tree in Cupar and so approached the owner, Dan Cookson. He was extremely gracious and allowed us to come along with a group of students from Bell Baxter High School and pick the pears, then with the aid of the pupils, we cleaned, prepared and turned them into Hassle Pear gelato. It was extremely well received and a great learning opportunity for the students also.”
On another occasion an appeal took them to Lower Largo where a local child minder, Joanna Fowler, offered them the chance to clear her Victoria plum tree.
“It’s experiences like these you can’t buy,” muses Owen. “It’s an opportunity to engage first hand, to educate the next generation and whet their appetites not only for good food but also perhaps inspiring them to consider a career in the industry.”
A recent project following the journey of gelato for farm to cone evolved as a result of a chance meeting with teacher Susan McKenzie, the P7 teacher at Craigowl Primary School in Dundee. “It resulted in my assistant Agata and I going along to the school spending time with the pupils telling them our story, teaching them about gelato making and getting them to do it themselves,” Owen recalls.
“Their enthusiasm that day was mind blowing. They were so engaged in what we were doing I decided to invite them to a special day seeing and learning first hand the art of gelato making from the farm to cone. Euan at Pittormie and his mum, Gillian, made this an extra special day out for the pupils in P7.
“They got to experience visiting the fruit farm, learning about the growing processes, picking fruit and then travelling on to our wholesale production unit with the freshly picked fruit and watching me churn it into freshly made ice cream and also sorbet.
“Tasting it was a highlight, of course. Seeing their reactions and allowing them to get involved was hugely rewarding and, I hope, inspiring too.”