I’ve always had a tenuous grasp on reality, I trust my imagination more than my senses. Before I started my sommelier training I used to think that they were mutually exclusive. In the past I’d go to wine tastings and wait for the host to tell me what I was experiencing. I was too afraid of getting it wrong to contribute to the conversation. Forest floor? Oyster shells? Wet rock minerality? I’ve been to enough forests, oceans, and rivers to let my imagination fill the gaps for my senses. I’m familiar with the taste of raspberries, mushrooms and plums; and the smell of violets, leather and tobacco smoke. I just never trusted those sensory notes in the wine unless someone told me they were there.
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.
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.