Having successfully avoided management roles in hospitality after more than twenty years in the industry, last month I accidentally opened a bar. This time it just seemed right. Exchange Christchurch (XCHC) is a community arts space that supports people in the experimental stages of their creative development, what better place to trial out my ideas of what a wine bar might look like if I decide to open one of my own someday.
“I’d never seen them before,” Chef Analiese Gregory said of the flax seeds that garnished her dish of crayfish, butterfish, kombu and wild plums. “You see flax plants everywhere, but it never occurred to me to open them up and take something out.” In a world that too often puts convenience over authenticity, it was beautiful to have a reminder that food is all around us.
Restaurare (Tulum’s vegan restaurant serving traditional Mexican dishes) was a food highlight for me during my time in Mexico, but owner Robbie Terrazas stopped me as I talked about the local restaurant scene. ‘You know, maybe it’s just a language thing between Spanish and English, but here we always talk about the food, not the restaurants.” And that is one of the reasons that his restaurant is so great. Wooden tables are tucked away in a jungle of chit palms. Hanging lanterns provide the lighting and the air is filled with the smoke from copal, a tree resin long used by the Maya for its cleansing properties. Restaurare’s setting feels mysterious, other-worldy, but the food is entirely grounded in Tulum — plant-based, organic and local produce. In this interview I talk to Robbie about creating a traditional Mexican menu without meat, and Tulum, the town where people live from love.
In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.
It’s nearing the end of our investigation into veggie dumplings and the competition is fierce. The service at Pot Sticker is questionable – they’ve got my order wrong most times I’ve been here, including serving us pork dumplings while doing vegetarian dumpling research – but once the dumps make it to the table it’s worth it.
This is the best of the best, the top five things to do on Waiheke Island. Thanks to the lovely Carmel / George Sand Studio for helping me out with all that eating and drinking, I relied heavily on her expertise when I put this piece together. Carmel and I met at a restaurant where she was Maitre ‘D and I was bartending. Before we reconnected on Waiheke, a mutual friend asked if Carmel was ‘still the same, like some magical creature?’ I can answer definitively, yes, she is still a magical creature.
A mere half hour ride from Auckland’s city centre, Waiheke Island is New Zealand’s never never land – it’s hard to tell who actually lives there and what they do. Known for beaches and wine, the island attracts a combination of the super rich and eccentric hippies and is largely supported by travellers on working holiday visas. Evidenced by my friend Cat’s first comments when she picked me up at the ferry terminal. “Oh yes, I’m working barefoot here,” she said when she saw me staring at her muddy feet. She is a vineyard hand at the Italian owned Poderi Crisci on the island’s remote east side. “I need to show you the pictures of our staff party last week. It was on a super yacht, unlimited champagne.”
Jade Temepara’s Kakanō Cafe is a modern initiative that is novel because it celebrates a return to the methods of the past. She is teaching skills that have been forgotten and re-planting seeds that have been lost. The cafe includes a seed to plate garden with heritage produce and an on site cookery school with workshops, classes, and speaker events. In my former job with Life in Vacant Spaces I was involved during the cafe’s set-up and I saw the excitement build around the space. The homeless men that hung out at Pete’s Landing across the street helped her build the garden beds. “They think it’s their pad,” she says. The librarians at the National Archive next door gave her their files and research of heritage produce and Maori food preparation. Everyone got involved – backpackers, neighbourhood residents, Jade’s family members. Here she tells me about her family, her ideas about New Zealand cuisine, and the future of Kakanō.
Jade Temepara is no stranger to getting things done. Her initiative Hand Over A Hundy gave families resources and mentoring to start home gardens. She told me about a corporate office that approached her and wanted to create a garden of their own. They had set up a committee and began scheduling a series of meetings to discuss their plans. When they told Jade that they might be able to start on the ground in a year, she excused herself and left. “I need to go start a garden right now, on my way home.” Her current space on Peterborough Street took more than an afternoon to set up, but I watched her team transform a vacant rubble lot into Kakanō Cafe and Cookery School within mere months. Here she talks about indigenous cuisine, the importance of food in community, and Kakanõ Cafe and Cookery School.
Hospo family dinner is a beloved tradition in restaurants that actually care about their staff. It’s an opportunity for the chef to trial new dishes that might be too experimental for the restaurant menu, and a chance for the staff to sit down and enjoy each others company with some good food and drinks. Every Thursday, Chef Aliesha McGilligan puts on a Chef’s Table lunch where she opens that treasured experience to the public – anyone can come. Each week she puts together meals above and beyond the cafe cabinet and creates an atmosphere where neighbourhood tradies sit next to artists working at the XCHC, backpackers and foodies and CBD office workers all share a table and pass the plates around. Here, she tells me about Chef’s Table, her food philosophy, and what it’s like to be a chef in the middle of an arts space.