One of the Capital’s top restaurateurs is set to swap the heat of the kitchen for the freezing conditions of the Arctic Circle.
Victor Contini, the owner of Ristorante Contini on George Street and The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant at The Mound, has pledged to raise at least £10,000 as part of a three-day trek to Northern Finland in March.
The 51-year-old will join a team of 20 others in tackling the 62-mile expedition over frozen lakes and harsh landscapes – with temperatures plummeting to as low as -15C.
And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll also have to pull his own sledge full of equipment – weighing around 15 kilograms – and contend with the local wolf population. But Mr Contini insists he is “excited” about his icy ordeal – and is even planning more like it in the future.
Money raised from the trip is set to go towards Edinburgh charity It’s Good 2 Give’s plans to build a £1 million respite home for cancer-hit youngsters.
Mr Contini said: “I’m so excited about it – it’s just an adventure. I’ve never done anything like this before. My father died of cancer when he was 82, but if it were to hit one of my children I would be devastated.
“I don’t think there’s any family in Scotland who have not been touched by cancer. It is there – but we are fighting it.
“And when you think about it that way, you think ‘I’m doing this. I’m going for it’.”
The snowy slog is set to begin in Rovaniemi in Finland, before taking a circular route over three days of gruelling physical endurance.
But Mr Contini, from Lasswade, says he’s already lost so much weight through an intensive training regime that he’s had to buy new trousers and shirts as his old ones no longer fit him.
“I’ve lost over five kilos of weight by training – and that was mostly in July,” he said.
“I trained in the gym three times a week during July, but at the moment I’m there twice a week. And I’m watching what I eat – it’s less carbs and more protein.”
And the chef has the full support of his family behind him – with wife Carina and their three children Orlando, 12, Carla, ten, and Arianna, eight, all “excited” about the trek. Mr Contini said he was still on the lookout for a sponsor for the equipment he’ll need to tackle the extreme conditions – but once he’s got the gear, there’s no saying what the future might hold.
“If I get the equipment, I might as well utilise it. It could even be a yearly thing, who knows,” he joked. “But as a person, the whole thing has made me a lot humbler.”
The Arctic expedition is being organised by Breaking Strain Events and will take place during a trip to Finland from March 5-11.
A fundraising event will be held in February at the Scottish Cafe & Restaurant in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, with tickets on sale for £100.