The most visible conversation about food in our country and our city is about being a boutique food producer to the world.
Garnering top dollar for what we produce, followed by the stars of our industry who grace our teles, winning awards and producing high end products and services. The more the merrier. This is, in turn, closely followed by making food sustainably and sustainable, and being correct when we make our eating and buying choices.
It’s time for the conversation to focus on how the majority of our city eats every day, not just on special occasions. We need to heed the cries for food authenticity as well as highlight the rich diversity that now exists in Aotearoa and especially in Tamaki Makaurau.
We should be interested in delving into the readers, listeners and viewers of our food story – Who are they? Where do they live? What rocks their world? How do they make their decision about what and where they eat and who they eat with? To get our messages through to them we must first consider how they will hear what we have to say. Is the local story different to the international story?
From a local economic development stand point, it is important for us to highlight how critical food and beverage is to our everyday existence and to our tourism and export efforts. How do our ordinary people eat and drink every day and keep fed and healthy – today before work, or at lunch time at work. We should consider how we tell that story and how this influences the future of food in our city.
These stories will inform conversations between food producers and food operators yes, but we forget that we also need to influence how the developers, builders and urban regenerators of our city think too – these people provide the bricks and mortar within which our food industry live. The ground floor makers.
What opportunities are being secured to domicile the vibrant, low cost and increasingly diverse food offerings springing up in Auckland? Are we going to continue to let this go to the highest bidder? Are we going to be satisfied with the franchise options that continue to spring up on every corner?
Thankfully, the enlightened developers are starting to think laterally which means that if we expose them to great and inspirational local stories now, we will sow seeds on potentially fertile ground for our mokopuna to harvest.
It will raise the importance of the local hospitality industry so workers can earn a decent wage, and food and beverage jobs can take their rightful position as one of the essential vocations in our city. Auckland hospitality is currently facing a staffing crisis and, short of Facebook after Instagram after LinkedIn lamenting the state of the nation, there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix to the problem.
In this regard, I recall the efforts that the Singapore government took in the late ‘50’s to move the hawkers off the streets into Hawker Centres , which have eventually come to mean to the culinary cache of the country. It was a bit of the tail wagging the dog really. The hawkers were an unregulated health and safety liability. Rather than closing them down, Singapore took to cleaning it all up and creating Hawker Centres with running water and clean environments for the food stalls to call home.
In his paper A Recipe for Success: How Singapore Hawker Centres Came to Be Azhar Ghani talked about how “hawking activities actually addressed a public need for cheap and convenient goods and services. Many hawkers also had family members helping them to prepare food and tend the stall … Relatives also often chipped in with contributions in kind. A study in the mid – 1970’s found that only 12% of hawkers has assistants not related to them.”
The food story is the story about the people who make the food. Ranging from our indigenous community to our immigrant communities. Standing tall and proud in manaakitanga is everything. The art of true hospitality and the people who deliver it is what creates full hearts, peace and happiness and cannot be ignored – these are the stories that should be told. The richness of food diversity cannot flourish if we do not also welcome the communities of the rest of the world – some of our star restaurateurs themselves are immigrants.
Cassia and Sid’s Sid Sarawat arrived from Chennai, the Dearths who are responsible for The Grove and Baduzzi are San Francisco natives, Ima’s Yael Shochat comes from Israel, Cocoro’s Makato Tokoyama is Japanese and Michael Meredith is Samoan.
I wonder how encouraging the young to participate in food business here in Auckland would assist the shortage of hospitality resources going forward. I also wonder how making it possible for low cost food entrepreneurs to succeed in Auckland would secure a vibrant, diverse and engaging food culture that underpins most global cities.
In answer to these two questions, The Kitchen Project was launched in Henderson in late November. Spin Off writer Simon Wilson’s summation of the project goes something like this: “It’s an incubator for people who want to start up a food business: migrants, and others, who might know how to cook but want to learn the rest of the operation. Especially, although not exclusively, it’s a hand up for women.
A kitchen for product development. A mentoring resource to help with … (h)ow to survive and how to grow.
The Kitchen Project is about healthier eating, and building communities and empowering the people who most often get most overlooked. It’s about strengthening the local economy: building networks among local food growers and suppliers and their customers and reinforcing the value of sustainable economic practices.
The old world meets the new. Economic resilience and opportunity in the culturally rich but profoundly challenged poverty-stricken parts of the city.” Read the whole article here.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Connie Clarkson has played an integral role in the regeneration of Wynyard Quarter and continues to be a luminary presence in shaping Auckland’s foodscape. Connie joined moved with Waterfront Auckland to the city’s regeneration agency, Panuku Development Auckland in 2015.