You’d be forgiven for not knowing there is a restaurant hidden inside the Gisborne RSA but, if you keep your eyes peeled to the corner of Derby Street and Childers Road around 5pm between Wednesdays and Sundays, you may just notice a crowd starting to gather.
Smokey Joe’s is a smokehouse buffet style eatery, which serves up “good, clean local food with local people in mind” says owner Joe Hutley.
Joe’s passion for food really began after travelling the world and tasting all the delights on offer. Bringing his love of food home, Joe established Spitfire, a full service catering business based on kai over charcoal. Using this as his base Joe and his team have catered numerous events including weddings, unveilings, and corporate events. His 6 metre Camo food trailer has become a staple in Gisborne’s food scene over the past few years.
You might have enjoyed one of Joe’s Spitfire burgers on a Sunday afternoon at Smash Palace, or perhaps more recently as we emerged out of lockdown into Level 3 and Joe set up his Spitfire gear on his front lawn on Ormond Road with a takeaway service. His burgers and whanau meals were flying out faster than he could make them.
It doesn’t get more Gizzy than that! Except, perhaps a restaurant in an institution like the ‘Razza’..
One Saturday night after a few quiets, the opportunity to build a restaurant within the RSA presented itself, and Joe jumped at it. Not only was Joe stoked about the great location but, after serving in the forces himself, it offered him the chance to give a little something back to an institution that has been struggling to survive for years across the country.
So with kids in tow, Joe set about clearing the rooms of forgotten treasures, painting, making furniture, and reinstating some of the original cabinetry to ensure that some of the choicest treasures might be displayed and able to be appreciated for years to come.
When Covid19 changed our world and lockdown hit the Spitfire team went to work to help the coastal community. Using his own resources, Joe and his team put 11,000kms on the clock with his chiller truck, ute and trailers over six weeks. They delivered 45 tonne of kai, chilled and dry goods and bins of fruit from different food providers, to various community groups, from Tolaga to Hicks Bay, who then distributed that food to whanau in need.
These days though you can find Joe back in the kitchen, serving up evening feasts of smoked meats and seafood, not to mention multiple vegetarian offerings to the happy masses. “I wanted to offer something different to our customers, something no one else is doing. I have taken my buffet-style of catering from Spitfire and put it into a restaurant. We offer 22 different options each night on our buffet and nothing is deep fried. No chips, nuggets or hotdogs for kids – they eat what the parents eat. It’s a change but it seems to be working”
You can find and book a table for Smokey Joes on Facebook Smokey Joe’s
Or of course at 184 Childers Rd in The RSA. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 5 – 9pm. Call on 867 7047
So you made it out of lockdown. You learnt a language. Mastered the downward dog and achieved a symbiotic relationship with your garden. Well done. Your only regret – You never could quite nail that sourdough. No rise, no tight crumb, or is it a loose crumb… Whatever. All you managed was to bake a sticky slop into what you referred to as a ‘Middle Eastern flatbread.’ I get it.
Sourdough is proper tricky if you don’t have a pair of hands and eyes which have been through the process of a good bake. The tactile feel for great dough is built upon many dud loaves half-baked.
I’ve spent the last four months digging down the floury rabbit hole, kneading the kinks and tricks out of the internet and piles of flour so you don’t have to – that perfect loaf can still be yours.
Even if you’re not going to revive that old starter, after reading this you’ll know where you went wrong, and pray to God we don’t go back into lockdown – hope to your lucky quarantine stars you find this information useless.
Rule number one: Take your time. Sourdough is like friendship. You needn’t do a lot, but be present when they need you. The fermentation process takes approximately four hours once you add your starter to the flour and water in warm weather. Read that again. In warm weather. Apologies to remind you again, but in this country, we are both free of Covid-19 and insulated houses. Even in a so-called ‘warm’ house, the windows are thin and the floors breathe.
Chances are your dough will need a couple of extra hours to bring it to life. Ways around this: Leave your mixture under the heat pump or by the fire. I occasionally preheat the oven for a couple of minutes making a simple ‘proving box.’ Make sure no one turns the oven on while it’s in there.
Rule number two: Your starter needs peak life. You’ll see some recipes call for an extra step. Making a ‘levain’ or a ‘sponge.’ Basically, all they’re asking you to do is feed your starter right before you make your bread. This means that by the time you come around to mixing, your sourdough starter is full of life, ready to give your loaf the energy to seize the day and start eating away at all the goodness in your flour.
Rule number three: Keep at it. Bread is love and bread is life. I never got into football because I was under the impression I was too old (seventeen), never learnt a language because I was beyond youth (twenty-three). Do you know Quincy Jones? Producer of the Beatles, Michael Jackson and every chart-topper you’ve heard. He’s pushing late eighties and he has started to learn Mandarin. Making a loaf is a journey and you never need get off the boat. If you keep your starter in the fridge you only need to feed it once a week… And if you’re super-duper lacking time, you can even freeze it! Laziness rules in the sourdough world.
Love is warm and so is bread. The breaking of bread is a religious experience. There is life inside of food, made with your two hands, it gives a certain kind of pleasure unknown to the capitalist state of mind. By baking, it is possible to consume without being consumerist.
Baking bread helps me rise; the act has become a cathartic exercise. Instead of being an unachieving nobody that’s going nowhere slow. With a little morning effort mixed with a dash of vague and dotty attention to wheat and water, my day fills the house with the crusty and toasted aroma of life. The pleasure of passing a loaf warm bread to a friend is an act of self-love shared. But I don’t do it for them. After I’ve dropped theirs off, I head home and cut myself a thick slice of bread, lather it up and down in butter and sit content.
This was the week we warmly welcomed the Village Greengrocer into the Gizzyscape.
The arrival of the Village Greengrocers has opened up new opportunities for local producers that don’t necessarily have the quantity of supply necessary to sell at the Gisborne Farmer’s Market. It’s really great to somewhere to easily buy un-plasticised produce, and Wendy’s opening hours are very generous. We wish her well!
Getting bagels to the ‘hard-working people of Gizzy’ has been Kellan Griffith’s project over the last year.
Originating from the US, Kellan first arrived in New Zealand with the intention to work and travel, with a bit of wine-study in between. Two years was all it took for her to decide that Gisborne was where she wanted to be. Endless sunshine and a nice boy didn’t hinder that decision either.
After that initial taster, she returned to the US work a vintage in Oregon at Willakkenzie Estate. A keen learner and eager for a challenge, she sought a project to fill her spare hours. Thus, she turned to bagel making.
She would make wine by day and bake by night, bringing her creations to work the following morning for her hungry fellow vintage workers. She picked a finnicky food – it took her several batches of trial and error to finally produce bagels she deemed good enough. The treats she brought got a tick from the Willakenzie Estate vintage team and were fondly christened black market bagels, which would end up being a sticky name.
It was early 2019 when Kellan made her return to Gisborne. Whilst pondering where her dream job might be, she found herself still hungry to learn. A self-started business seemed to be an appropriate way for a hands-on, self-professed ‘project-person’ to fill their time and Gisborne’s quiet bagel market combined with Kellan’s love of baking made selling her bagels an obvious choice.
When naming her business, she couldn’t look past the original name bestowed upon her bagels back at Willakenzie Estate. Kellan would work part-time jobs and scheme bagel-schemes in her hours off, and eventually launched Black Market Bagels Gizzy (BMBagels) in August 2019. A million miles away from Oregon in a small town on the east coast of New Zealand, Black Market Bagels was reborn.
BMBagels found its new home in the kitchen of Black Fig, run by catering chef Amy Spence. Through Amy’s generosity, Kellan was able to rent out a commercial kitchen space that fit her timeframe and budget.
Her typical week sees two rounds of bagels made. This line-up includes a classic seed bagel, a wholemeal bagel for that extra fibre, something more experimental (Kellan introduced me to her carrot and cumin bagel) and the crowd favourite – a cheesy number.
But it turns out bagels were the easy bit. Under the guidance of Google, Kellan learnt how to run a business. It was a steep learning curve as she navigated unfamiliar tasks such as bookkeeping and social media marketing. With BMB not fitting your standard business model, Kellan has often had to figure out things along the way. She has found being the sole person behind the business taxing, having only herself to rely on to cover all aspects of the business.
This is where community becomes invaluable. Kellan speaks of her gratitude for the willingness of people to help her. Amy Spence has been a key figure in the process of putting BMB together. Frank & Albie’s and Crawford Road Kitchen masterminds Amy Campbell and David Whitfield have also offered plentiful industry advice and moral support.
Her most successful venture thus far has been her Wednesday bagel delivery service run through the BMBagels website. Through this scheme, Kellan delivers bagels (sometimes by bike!) alongside a matching set of spreads in reusable ramekins to different workplaces around Gisborne in time for morning tea. She also sells her bagels directly from Black Fig on Tuesday 12-2pm. Her hard work has earned her a loyal customer base composed of friends, businesses and general bagel eaters alike.
In her mind, Gisborne has been the dream place to begin your own business venture due to the immensely supportive and welcoming community, and the absence of hyper-competitive, well-resourced chain stores and eateries. It is a place where word-of-mouth and social networks can bolster businesses, giving the small guys a chance.
When I spoke to Kellan, she was celebrating BMBagels’ recent council verification. For her, it’s the small milestones that mean a lot. She wants to gain stability and solidify BMBagels’ place not only in the Gisborne market, but in the hearts and stomachs of her customers as well.
To get your hands on some of Kellan’s illegally tasty bagels, visit https://bmbagelsgizzy.com/ or head to Black Fig, 167 Wainui Rd, Tuesdays 12-2pm.
The origins of one of Gisborne’s latest home-grown businesses, Food Cartel, might be found on the sideline of a kids footie match where, over the course of a season, Drew and Katie Hill listened with increasing interest to fellow parents comparing notes on their Meal Kit Home Delivery services of which there are many currently operating in New Zealand. Eventually, they decided to try it out for themselves and went straight to the top with a gourmet box from one of the major players in the meal kit delivery game.
But what arrived on their doorstep that fateful day was disappointment.
The ‘Fresh East Coast Tarakihi’ was fed to the cat. The bendy carrot went straight to the compost. Upon contacting the supplier to express their disappointment that they wouldn’t be feasting upon a gourmet dinner that night after all, they were offered a discount on their next order.
They were kindly informed that the fish had absolutely been fresh.. when it had been vacuum sealed one week prior. Drew and Katie thought about the long round trip their East Coast Tarakihi had made, from ocean to the Bay of Plenty and back again, only to arrive at its destination inedible and so far from the claims of freshness.
And they thought quite simply that fateful day, ‘let’s do it ourselves’.
You could say the seeds of Food Cartel were sown many years ago when Katie and Drew first met. Katie a vegetarian chef and Drew an appreciator of meat who at the time was devoting a fair bit of his time tending to his gardens on Valley Road.
Fast forward to 2019, the pair were both casting out their nets for new direction, and something they could do together. Fast forward to 2019 and this fast-paced life in which delivered meal kits are an increasingly normal part of life for some people. The standard model however is by no means a fix for everything and in fact, as Drew and Katie had picked up over the course of many Saturdays on the football field sideline, there’s a lot about home-delivered meal kits that is downright counter-intuitive in these times in which we’re aspiring for positive change, new ways of doing things, which work for our people and our planet, rather than against them.
In Food Cartel Katie and Drew set out to provide a model that works for our community; the consumers, food producers and fellow local businesses and for our Earth. Maintaining as small a carbon footprint as possible is a major focus for the business, with 97% of the ingredients found in their food boxes grown locally. Items unable to be sourced in Gisborne are purchased from local businesses, and there are even items in a Food Cartel box that can’t usually be found on Gisborne supermarket shelves, such as export-quality Turihaua beef – thereby enabling those producers to reduce their carbon foot print, you might say!
Plastic-free and recyclable packaging is also a priority, consumers are encouraged to leave out the box that had contained the previous kit to be picked up upon the next delivery. Paper bags are used instead of plastic ones and the pair are currently exploring the use of glass jars for items that would usually be vacuum-packed. Drew and Katie aren’t necessarily taking the easy way, but they’re taking a line that allows them to sleep at night. They’re also doing their best to ensure that ability to sleep easy extends to their customers, who aren’t locked into contracts or subscriptions, which are de rigueur with other meal kit companies. “We’re drawing people in with love, not locking them in with chains” says Drew, off the cuff and to the heart of the Food Cartel philosophy.
Boxes are packed and delivered the following day, so when Food Cartel uses the word ‘fresh’, it means fresh. Drew and Katie are also motivated by their ability to use this space to encourage healthier eating habits in our community; being innovative with their menus to educate around meal sizes, healthy proportions of meat and veg, and catering to vegetarians as well as people eating keto. I myself was particularly taken by the sentiment behind the hangover boxes and barbeque/grazing boxes, providing some well-considered assistance in two potentially stressful situations!
Together with their two children Lucy and Leroy, these guys live and breathe food. They rave over the life-giving properties of the Manzano chilli crop in their backyard, loved just as much by the kids as themselves. They call themselves urban farmers, loving nothing more than to preserve whatever they forage and then give it away.
Drew’s preoccupation with issues around food, the health of our community and our earth has been evident too in his art over the past few years. His works in the 2016 Auckland International Art Fair and his 2017 show ‘In Your Face’ passed fairly unambiguous comment on ‘Corporations killing generations with fast food’; the stuff people around the world are consuming by the bucket load that as Drew points out ‘isn’t even food’. In these works body builders hang next to cow carcasses in freezing work fixtures. The later works Drew printed directly onto discarded fast food wrappers, the polluting propaganda of the multinationals themselves.
I think Food Cartel offers our community a pretty awesome opportunity to support local, especially if you are in the meal kit market already. You’re not only supporting a home-grown business but also the local producers and growers supporting them. With a liquor licence currently in the works, which will enable local export quality wine and local brews to be added into the box of offerings, the future of Food Cartel is looking hot – Manzano Chilli hot – because that’s the way they like it. Do not be concerned however, they assure me they tone down the spices for the general public.
Sounds like ka pai kai to me Food Cartel and a beautiful approach to boot, ‘Love not chains!’
Check out the good stuff and place yourself an order! foodcartel.nz