AMINYA Hepp is carrying on a family tradition for selling hot-roast chestnuts, having set up her roasting pan at Belconnen Fresh Food Markets more than 20 years after her father did the same thing in Civic.
Aminya says her dad, Jurg Hepp, started selling hot-roast chestnuts in Garema Place in 1995, wanting to bring the warming, wintery Swiss tradition to Canberra.
“He used the traditional method of charcoal and copper pans to roast the chestnuts, and had to get all his equipment specially made, as nothing like it had been made in Canberra before,” she says.
Aminya, 36, says she has fond memories as a teenager of roasting and selling nuts alongside her dad, who passed away in 2011 when he was 60.
“In 2000 I worked with him at Belconnen markets for the chestnut season, when I was 19,” she says.
“He taught me the best way to roast the chestnuts, by scoring the skins and placing them cut side down to blacken the skin for a few minutes, before stirring and turning them to open them up.
“I loved opening the lid and seeing them when they’re done, like smiling, golden faces.
“It was such a fun thing to do, and I felt like I was making people happy all day.”
Aminya says her dad had moved to Australia from Switzerland when he was 22, and she grew up in East Gippsland, Victoria, before moving to Canberra when she was 12.
“Just after working with him, I went to Switzerland for five months to visit family and it was great to see dad’s friend in Zurich selling chestnuts in exactly the same way,” she says.
Aminya says this is the first year she has started roasting and selling chestnuts herself, having held on to her dad’s freestanding roaster and copper roasting pan.
“I’m really enjoying it – it’s so nostalgic for me and the customers, as many of them tell me they haven’t had roasted chestnuts since their childhood,” she says.
“I like that it’s a healthy food, I feel good about selling it to people.
“It’s such a social thing too, people stop to chat and tell me their memories of having chestnuts before, and it’s really lovely. There are people who are addicted and come back for more every week.”
Aminya says she sources her chestnuts from a farm in Sassafras and that she prefers the De Coppi Marone variety, as they’re sweet and peel well.
She says her dad also sold roasted chestnuts at markets around town and that it’s great to be back at Belconnen markets where she’s seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“I’m really enjoying being part of the market community, and there are actually a lot of the same people there from when dad and I used to work there, and they remember me from then,” she says.
“I feel it’s a nice way for me to acknowledge and honour what dad did and it creates a connection to him that I love.”
“Running my own business for the first time is challenging and there have been moments when I wished dad was around so I could ask him something – he was super organised and a perfectionist!” she says.
“But it feels really nice to be continuing what he did and it’s bringing back happy memories of us working together.”
Aminya will be selling chestnuts at Belconnen Fresh Food Markets, outside the organic cafe As Nature Intended, from 10.30am-5pm every Saturday and Sunday until the end of the season. She is also available for event hire, email email@example.com for more information