Renowned chef Stefano Manfredi has served modern Italian food in his restaurants for 30 years, but his working career began on a pushbike delivering newspapers.
My very first job was doing a newspaper run, way back when we used to deliver newspapers. I was in Grade 5, so age 10.
A friend who was doing the run couldn’t do it anymore so he asked me to take over. He told me I would need a bike, but all I had was a scooter. So I borrowed two pounds from my parents, bought a second-hand bike and put a basket on it.
I would deliver newspapers to four streets and got a penny per paper. It would take me three afternoons a week, two hours a day after school.
The bike was great and it went a lot faster than the scooter! It was a lot of fun, but I found there was a real trick to throwing a newspaper while riding a bike.
On rainy days it wasn’t pleasant, but I’d just put my raincoat on and take it slow.
I got bitten by a dog once. I can still picture it chasing me. It bit me on the leg, but it didn’t pierce the skin. When it tried to bite me again, I just lifted my foot and booted it.
Another time a friend of mine threw a broom handle at me while I was riding. The back of the bike flew up and I came off. Luckily all I got was just a bit of gravel burn. Kids are resilient!
I never dumped the newspapers because unlike fliers, they were going to people who had subscriptions. People would call the newsagency and complain if they didn’t receive their newspaper.
I spent my earnings on going to the show, to the movies and just becoming a little more independent from my parents. I also paid back the two pounds I owed them for my bike.
I don’t know if newspaper delivery runs for kids still exist.
These days I think kids are over-parented and looked after for longer. With young people there comes a time when they either engage in work or they don’t. It’s quite a critical point and my daughter has gone through that. It’s like a rite of passage all kids go through.
I worked early because I wanted money. I couldn’t get it from my parents, so I had to get it on my own. I’m glad I did it – it’s held me in good stead.
Having a job at a young age taught me responsibility and consequences. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, your workmates won’t respect you or customers complain.
I did it for a couple of years and then gave it up when I found a higher paying job. I moved on to a tailor shop, then a drum-reconditioning factory and then to the central railways stowing fruit and vegies.
When I began working at Jenny Ferguson’s restaurant You and Me on King St in Sydney, I started in the vegies section and worked my way up to main courses. Working there really opened my eyes to how suppliers work and where you could get really fine food like quail and hare.
I opened The Restaurant Manfredi in 1983 so I’ve been in the industry for 30 years this year.
I’ve also written newspaper columns for 20 years and of course, there’s the books. Writing has been a big part of my life.
It took me two years to write my latest book. My idea of a food book is not one full of recipes. I want context, I want to know why the ingredients are being used and the food’s history. My book is full of stories.
I’m glad I’ve done it and I’m very proud of it.
Stefano Manfredi’s Italian Food is Manfredi’s fifth cookbook and it is published by Allen and Unwin.