Jenna’s secret sauce to hospitality
With the upcoming launch of her fine dining restaurant and bar BOSSI in Auckland, owner-operator Jenna Carter reflects on the rewards and challenges of opening up a business mid-pandemic. Delving into the world of hospitality and opening a deli mid-pandemic was never part of Jenna Carter’s five-year business plan, but for the owner of Auckland’s […]
With the upcoming launch of her fine dining restaurant and bar BOSSI in Auckland, owner-operator Jenna Carter reflects on the rewards and challenges of opening up a business mid-pandemic.
Delving into the world of hospitality and opening a deli mid-pandemic was never part of Jenna Carter’s five-year business plan, but for the owner of Auckland’s authentic Italian delicatessen DELI di BOSSI and soon-to-open fine dining restaurant and bar BOSSI, it provided an opportunity to carve out her unique vision and bring her family’s heritage to life.
Located in the laneway of Auckland’s prestigious Pacifica building, DELI di BOSSI offers fine sliced meats and cheeses, freshly-made pasta and bread, aromatic coffee, and specialised Italian street food.
BOSSI will open across the way from the deli, offering authentic Italian food and experiences in a fine dining atmosphere from November.
Before opening DELI di BOSSI in March, Jenna had spent more than 15 years working in sales and marketing across various industries in Australia.
Now based in Auckland with her husband and two children, Jenna comes from a large Italian family with a rich history of traditions that have been carried through in both venues.
Every detail – from the menu to the venue layout and even the BOSSI name itself – has been influenced by significant people, memories and places in Jenna’s life, and traditional recipes passed down through generations.
So what inspired Jenna to go into the hospitality business?
“Growing up in an Italian family in Country Victoria, I was always surrounded by good food, strong opinions, and a community that cared for each other,” she recalls.
“We would have family lunches at least three times a week with my Nonna, banter about politics, business, and life, but most importantly, we would share simply made Italian meals cooked with love.
“While these traditions are part of who I am, it wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand, had my two children, and started looking at investment opportunities that I came across an opportunity to live my dream and open my own restaurant.
Building the brand, space, and team for Deli di BOSSI and BOSSI throughout the pandemic has not been easy, she admits. “As soon as we signed the contract for our spaces, we were plunged into Auckland’s longest lockdown, so it’s taken a lot of perseverance, zoom calls, and passion for pulling it all together.
“Luckily, I met an executive chef who, from day dot, knew exactly what my vision was and the community I was trying to build.”
Reflecting on the look and feel of both places, Jenna has subscribed heavily to the ‘invest in local’ method despite being told to do the fit-out using imported goods.
This has been beneficial in two respects, she says.
“Firstly, I have been able to support local businesses during these incredibly hard times, having the chance to see first-hand what the materials and furniture look like to ensure the quality is up to standard, and secondly, I have not been hit by shipping or export delays.
“I have also worked alongside local designers, CTRL Space, who understood my vision and lived experiences both in Australia and New Zealand.”
Recruiting the team was tough, says Jenna. “I had to conduct most interviews via Zoom and really trust my gut on the fit. Luckily, I met an executive chef who, from day dot, knew exactly what my vision was and the community I was trying to build.”
Fortunately, Jenna was connected with Shaun Dowling, BOSSI’s executive chef, who was heading back to Auckland after 15 years.
“We bonded over the cooking of Italian Nonnas, simple meals we have made for our kids, and the secret laneway restaurants of Melbourne that could so easily become a fixture here in New Zealand,” says Jenna. “The bond I have built with Sean has been essential in building up the team, as I trust his ability to hire around our shared vision.”
Mixing parenting with business ownership
It has certainly been a challenging couple of years for the hospitality industry everywhere.
“I have had to grieve the fact that I would not be at every school pick-up or netball game,” says Jenna. “I have also had to learn to rely more on other members of my family in helping to raise my beautiful children.
“Ultimately, despite the challenges, I can see the benefits it has brought my kids,” she says. “They have seen me work incredibly hard to bring both DELI di BOSSI and BOSSI to life and are inspired to help me along the way.
One of the things I look forward to most is picking my kids up from school on a Friday and bringing them back to the deli to help me close. They get an up-close and personal insight into my work, what the business looks like, and of course, they get fed some of the best Italian food in Auckland.”
What makes your businesses unique to Auckland?
Jenna says her restaurant and deli promise to “capture the essence of Italia in Aotearoa”.
“At the deli, we deliver an authentic Italian experience to our customers with finely sliced meats, cheeses, freshly-made pasta, loaves of bread, coffee and specialised Italian street food. It’s a space that harks back to a true Italian deli visited by my Nonna during a weekly shop.”
She says the restaurant is inspired by days spent cooking with her Nonna in Victoria and some of the best Italian restaurants in the world. The space is set to transport diners to Italy.
Despite only having launched the deli in April this year, Jenna has already had various partners ask her to open something similar in Queenstown and Wellington.
“Expansion is certainly in our future but whatever we do it will always be different”, she says.
“I hate the idea of opening up something exactly the same all over the country as I think there is a risk of cannibalising our success.
Advice for other hospitality owners
Find the right people to support your vision and give you advice but don’t let those people take over. That’s the advice for other hospo owners from Jenna.
“Business is all about communicating your message and what’s important to you,” she says.
She also thinks it is essential to invest in people who have the skills you don’t.
“I know what good food looks and tastes like, but I am not a chef, hence investing in the best I know.”
In addition to this, do not skimp on the important things, she adds. “There will always be pressure to cut costs, but it is essential not to compromise on quality and what your guests will see. Specifically, I am talking about the furniture, plates, glasses, and everything that brings your restaurant’s aesthetic to life.
To sum up her ownership experience, Jenna likes to refer to an expression her Nonna used to say if you have a bad day:
“Bella, remember, everything is better on a full stomach and a good night’s rest”.
Photo: (L-R) Executive chef Shaun Dowling, Jenna Carter, sous chef Mauro Taveres.