I’ve always been passionate about writing. It came from my obsession with magazines from a young age. I would always pester my parents to buy me one whenever we walked past the magazine stand. I was always that kid who took out the maximum of books allowed at the library, and you’d find me walking around garden centres (we often visited!) with my parents reading a book whilst walking. Somehow, despite how clumsy I am, I never managed to trip up! Also I was very prepared; I’d always take more than two books with me on car journeys, just in case I happened to finish two of them, I would never be left without reading material!
I’ve always loved food too… Here’s me, aged 9 (?) stuffing my face whilst on Holiday in Spain.
After completing my A Levels, I finally got the chance to pursue my passion for all things publishing and got a place at my first choice University, Oxford Brookes. During my time there I mostly enjoyed the magazine module, and was excited when we got the chance to create a mock-up of a magazine. Our group chose to create a magazine on snow sports which incorporated another passion of mine: travel!
Here’s a busy summer’s day on Cornmarket St, Oxford
Here’s the Oxford Brookes crew and I on my wedding day
Summer holidays were mostly spent in Italy, as my now Husband is Italian (we weren’t married then!) As I mentioned before, I have a passion for travel and made sure I explored as much of the country as possible: Venice, Milan, Bormio, in the Alps, where I tried out skiing for the first time, as well as Pisa and Genova. We’d usually spend a couple of months out there, relaxing, exploring and indulging in the much-loved Italian cuisine (food is another love of mine, in case you didn’t know already!)
The Galleria in Milan
Trying to look cool in Genova (2010)
My first time in Bormio; I look super happy (2010)
Up in the mountains in Bormio (2011)
Fabio’s uncle has a hidden collection of rocks in the mountains which he cooks on. The best sausages I’ve ever eaten!
Relaxing by the Venice canals (2012)
As my boyfriend’s parents lived in the Middle East, in Bahrain, we often spent the Easter holidays there. My first trip to the Middle East in 2010 spurred a passion for all things Middle Eastern. Since then I have also travelled to Kuwait and Dubai. I love how culture-rich the region is, and how welcoming all the people are. A lot of love and effort is put into their local cuisine, and the traditions are reflected in everything they do. I got the chance to teach students from the Middle East in 2016-2017 and learnt a lot more about their culture from them, and actually how more open-minded they are once you get chatting to them (especially the Saudi women!)
Relaxing in the hammock (2016)
Fabio and with the view on Saudi Arabia in the background (2011)
Up the Burj Khalifa (2017)
I graduated with a 2:1 with Honours and immediately sought some work experience at Boardworks Ltd, an educational publisher in Oxford. I was there for 3 months, and during that time I was tasked with proof-reading and editing their educational software. The work was monotonous but I enjoyed it as I quite like something that I can get my teeth stuck into. I left the temporary role just after Christmas and managed to get myself some unpaid work experience at a local magazine, Stow Times. The work was home-based, and all I was doing was laying out the pages using Indesign, but I was happy to be finally following my dream, working for an actual magazine.
We did it! – The Oxford Brookes Publishing gang 2012 – i’m on the far right)
My big break came in April 2013 when I landed a full-time, permanent role at Archant Ltd, on their title The English Garden magazine. The role was based in Cheltenham, so I moved over there immediately. I stayed in this role for 9 months, and during my time there I was given some amazing opportunities. I learnt how to sub on the job, and was subbing almost the whole magazine after only a month of starting the role. I was given the responsibility of managing The Reviewer section of the magazine, after the Deputy Editor left. This led to me having the page re-designed by the Art Editor as I felt it needed a re-vamp, as well as bringing in new ideas for the page: product reviews. One of my most favourite achievements was landing a telephone interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I also got the chance to write my first feature on the best gardens to visit in spring, which featured my name in the byline; a big-deal in publishing! I often regret leaving this role, however I was young and naive at the time; we all make mistakes!
A passion for gardening too, perhaps? (I don’t think so… I quite often kill plants!)
A few days before Fabio proposed to me at Winter Wonderland! (2014)
Still with a passion for publishing, I was lucky to accept a contracted freelance job with Wild Things Publishing. I was tasked with editing a guide called Wild Swimming Italy. The author was Italian and had made a lot of grammatical mistakes, so I basically re-wrote it. I also had to double-check all the directions to the swimming spots were accurate, so out came the Italian road map and trusty Google Maps. That part took the longest, but looking back, I found it quite fun. It was like virtually travelling around Italy from my sofa.
The freelance job was only for a month, and so after that I found myself a temporary admin job, just to keep me busy. I really enjoyed it there as the team were all lovely, and I was going to be put forward for a permanent job, however my now fiance got accepted on a PGCE course in Canterbury. So we upped sticks to Kent and I immediately started job-hunting. Unable to find any roles in the publishing industry, I decided to pursue my life-long dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu in London to do a Pattiserie Diploma there. I chose the fast-track option which took 6 months and started in January 2015. This meant a lot of 6am starts to commute to London, often returning at 9pm, only to return again the next day. Sometimes I had to even go in on a Saturday. My passion for food drove me on, and I eventually passed and graduated in June 2015.
We made some lovely friends in Canterbury!
The fast-track gang! We made so many cool things, like…
This amount of bread in one day!
Here’s most of the class of 2015 happy to be graduating!
I had a few busy months after completing the diploma. I moved back to Cheltenham in August 2015, bought a house with my fiance and got married in September 2015. I decided to try out my new pastry chef skills and found myself a job at The Greenway Hotel and Spa as a Commis Pastry Chef. As much as I loved the job, I found the hours were too long (9am-11pm) and I never got the chance to see my Husband, as I worked on weekends too. I left the job and went back on the job-hunt. With no luck, I decided to dedicate my time to my other blog (my first proper blog): www.jesscantoni.com
We got married! (September 26th 2015)
And then we did it again in Italy! (October 26th 2015 < The date was just a coincidence!)
Some of my best blog achievements are writing and creating a recipe using Baileys Pumpkin Spice for Diageo, and more recently, being invited to T2 in Cheltenham to do an Iced-tea Masterclass.
On my other blog I would often write about food, mainly recipes I had cooked or created myself, however I also would write about places I had visited in the UK and abroad. Here are a range of posts I’ve written:
In 2016, due to my passion for travel and the prospect of moving abroad, I decided to do a CELTA certificate at Gloucestershire University. My husband and I had played with the idea of moving abroad and so a qualification in teaching English as foreign language was ideal, and would broaden my prospects there. Unfortunately we were no longer able to move there, and so after completing the course I found myself a permanent role in Birmingham, at Birmingham college, as an EFL teacher to mainly Middle Eastern students. I really enjoyed teaching the students, however after a year, the commute from Cheltenham became too much, as well as the cost of the season ticket. I decided to leave in July, before the next academic year began.
Our lovely Celta students
Since then, I used the opportunity to do some travelling. I went to Dubai in August, as mentioned previously. And also to my most favourite place that I’ve travelled to so far: Bermuda. I have a friend from University who lives there and so I went out to stay for a week. Bermuda is the most wonderful island, despite the storms! The people are so welcoming and friendly; the waters are crystal clear, perfect for diving, and despite it being a small island, I don’t think I could ever get bored there. On my way back to the UK, due to illness, I missed my connection flight from Philadelphia. So the next day, after feeling better, I took it upon myself to explore Philadelphia for the day, before taking my flight in the evening. I love the US but have only ever visited New York a couple of times. I found Philadelphia a really interesting and culture-rich city. Also, you must try the famous Philly Cheesesteak – it’s to die for.
View of Bermuda from the plane
Washington Square Park in Philadelphia – such a tranquil place
I decided to create this blog in January of this year (2018) because I just wasn’t enjoying using Blogger as a platform anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for beginners or if you’re not bothered about making your site a business (I could be wrong!) but I’d heard WordPress was the place to be if you were looking to do this. So I made the leap over to WordPress but decided not to move any of my content over and start afresh. I wanted to still keep my old blog as it is, for nostalgic reasons but also because I wanted to still have a place I can basically post anything I want! This blog is more for business and where things will look pretty (better photography) and as you know, is only food and travel based. I decided to keep my previous blog content to book reviews and lifestyle posts. So it’s a win, win situation, although a hectic one having to run two blogs!
I’m really excited for what 2018 is to bring! I’m going to be putting my all into this blog, more than I have ever before. I will be updating this ‘journey’ page when more life events happen, so keep your eyes posted!