On Friday 23 November, we’re delighted to be holding a delicious event: seven fantastic food providers – a mixture of exciting startups and do-good social enterprises – will be selling breakfast and lunch offerings in the Atrium on Takutai. Fancy some of baker Aloisio Helu’s famous coconut bread? Some sensational suafa’i, the Samoan mixture of banana, sago, fresh fruit and coconut cream that is (in our opinion) one of the best breakfasts on the planet? One of Lenny Stevens’ famous hangi pies, where pork, kumara, pumpkin and stuffing are nestled in a shell of perfect pastry? Then come on down, pull up a stool at the long communal table, and start eating.
Here are some of the food providers who’ll be sharing their fantastic creations on the day.
Aloisio Helu (above) has been in the baking game for a long time, but shows no signs of tiring. He makes his amazing creations at Community Cafe at the Māngere Arts Centre, which include the aforementioned coconut bread, lu bread (bread made with the health benefits of taro leaves), mini bagels and other incredible baking, much of it made with gluten-free flours including those made from taro and breadfruit. An absolute favourite are the Lu Sipi pies – the delectable take on traditional Tongan concoction that combines lamb, taro leaves, coconut cream with chunks of taro – all wrapped in a “kiwi-as” pie.
Helu works with three other full-time staff in the Community Cafe’s kitchen, including Alipate Mafile’o (Co-founder of Community Cafe) and John Tuakalau – making for a solid trio!
Lei’ua Fili (below) manages front-of-house, serving Tupuanga coffee from Tonga, and show-stopping Otai, the Tongan fresh fruit-juice beverage. Community Cafe is operated by social enterprise Affirming Works, which delivers innovative mentoring programmes, community initiatives and educational services for young Pacific people and their families. The Community cafe has a strong focus on sustainability, both environmental and social – investing in community development through Affirming Works.
Carmel Davidovitch (below) lives and works in west Auckland, where she bakes Yemenite pita bread and fills them with delicious things to sell at her stall at the monthly farmer’s markets at Kumeu and Coatesville. Davidovitch moved to Israel when she was young, and now shares her love of Mediterranean cuisine through these pita pockets filled with freshness. Be warned: you’ll want to sample far more than one.
Just beside the Māngere East Library, Tawera Ormsby (below left) and Martha Tamati (below right) are the brains behind Village Cafe, a caravan dedicated to serving great coffee and equally excellent food to an enthusiastic crowd of locals. And while they won’t be bringing the caravan to Britomart for Community Eats, they will be serving their excellent food, including pork belly and watercress served in a paleo bun, and a mouth-watering selection of cakes and brownies that are not only great to eat, but also suit people on paleo or keto diets. Partly funded by the Akina Foundation, Village Cafe is a social enterprise that offers healthy food in a neighbourhood where fast food tends to dominate. It also anchors Māngere East’s regular summer night markets, gives its profits to the neighbouring community centre, and features a ‘pay it forward’ scheme that offers customers the chance to shout a coffee or a meal for a future customer who might be short on cash. “When someone in need comes along, we can give them a free coffee,” Tamati says.
“The food is made of love and passion,” says Malia Soakimi (below), whose family runs a catering business with her mother and two sisters that specialises in presenting a “healthier version of island food”. One of their specialities is Ota Ika, a raw fish dish that they prefer with cucumber, coconut cream and dill. They and some of their Cook Island compatriots – all part of the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand – will be serving dishes like this, but make sure you leave room for the coconut buns, puddings and cheesecakes that will also be on offer in the Atrium on Takutai. “Island food is community food,” Soakimi says.
Naivety can be a beautiful thing. Robbie Kainuku and Lenny Stevens had been in the catering business for years when they decided to open a small Sandringham Road cafe – which then took so much work to set up they almost regretted their decision to do so. Now, though, the cafe gives a wider audience the chance to sample the couple’s excellent food, informed by their Rarotongan (Kainuku) and Māori (Stevens) heritage. “We dip into our Pacific and Māori sides, and give a twist to it,” Stevens explains of their culinary style. They’ll be bringing the best of this food to Britomart for Community Eats, including a luscious hangi pie containing pork, kumara, pumpkin and stuffing, and a banoffee waffle dessert that’s so decadent it should almost be banned.
Community Eats is happening on Friday 23 November from 7.30am to 2.30pm in Britomart’s Atrium on Takutai. Come along and buy some food to eat at our long shared table, or to take back to the office. We’re delighted to be working with Westpac and DiversityWorks to present these food producers. Photographs by Joe Hockley