Auckland pie cart The White Lady turned 70 this week, as they opened for their 25,567th day on their well-known Commerce Street site.
The business is now into the third generation of original family ownership. They operate seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year and have never missed a night in all that time. They were late opening just once – on 20 February 1998 when the Auckland power crisis resulted in about 20 city blocks losing all power. That evening, they opened at midnight, once the generators arrived.
This is the stuff of legends and this is the kind of story The Kitchen Project hopes our businesses will also tell in time.
The Kitchen Project is a collaboration between Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development, Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa and Papakura, Healthy Families Waitakere and Panuku Development Auckland. It was born out of the desire to see successful, sustainable and healthy local food businesses survive in the neighbourhoods that need them most. Food business survival is hard. Almost anyone who has been involved in food businesses will attest to the fact that worry is the state of mind du jour, that profitability is hard to find and the romance of buying your mate a glass of wine across your very own bar at midnight soon fades in the harsh light of day.
The Kitchen Project businesses get the opportunity to get it right from the start or make an informed decision not to go down the rabbit hole before they lose the shirt off their backs. We find between five to seven suitable entrepreneurs at a time who have been working on their business idea for a while, who make really great food and who are committed to the neighbourhood the project is based in. Our inaugural five are just fantastic. Food diversity is one of the corner stones of great cities and we are thrilled to be generating our own United Nations of Food. They all have stories to tell, clear dreams to fulfil and their combined trajectory covers Fiji, Israel, Italy, the US and the Cook Islands.
It all began in early March 2018 with six weeks of classroom time. The gnarly issues of food safety, finance, fund sourcing, supply chain, quality, sustainability, health and marketing are discussed by a panel of industry experts who have donated their time and wisdom to making sure that they walk into the life of a food business owner with their eyes open. Armed with a solid business plan, the next 20 weeks are taken up with one on one mentoring with their own programme mentor, product testing and cooking in The Kitchen Project commercial kitchen. One of the costly barriers to food business start-ups is affordable commercial kitchen space and we are able to provide our businesses with access to a purpose-built commercial grade container kitchen right outside the Henderson classroom where our pilot programme is based.
This is a long burn. We’re not aiming to pepper Auckland with hundreds of new food businesses overnight, far from it. We are making sure that those that replace the 60% of food businesses in Auckland that do not survive past the six-year mark are the right ones. We are making sure that they contribute responsibly to the communities they reside in, and play their part in building the sustainable, vibrant, integrated and liveable neighbourhoods for us to live, eat, work and play in.
It’s been a wonderful month together. We’ve seen them refine their plans, rethink their pricing and change their objectives. We’ve watched them become more determined than ever to make a go of it. Their excitement and their fears are palpable. The most wonderful thing we have witnessed however is the fact that the entrepreneurs who began as strangers have now become friends. The lonely life of a start-up food business is lonely no longer.
As we finish classroom and proceed into kitchen time, we are encouraged and look forward to continuing to tell The Kitchen Project Story as it unfolds.
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 moved with Waterfront Auckland to the city’s regeneration agency Panuku Development Auckland in 2015.