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

Words by Amy Moore.

Photograph X Sarah Cleave.