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Zelati-0002In our cur­rent era of TV celebrity chefs, every man and his (pure-bred) dog is try­ing to cash in on the terms ‘artis­an’, ’craft’ and any­thing else with a niche or boutique ring to it. Bey­ond the buzz-word fever, throw-away PR stunts and infomer­cial­isa­tion of everything that is good, real artis­ans are refin­ing their craft and rais­ing the bar, cre­at­ing gor­geous food sourced from reput­able loc­a­tions and elim­in­at­ing all the evils intrins­ic in pro­cessed foods.

Wel­ling­ton has always been a haven for food­ies, pion­eer­ing the café revolu­tion in the late 1980s — thanks Havana — and recently, in the Al Brown era, embra­cing the concept that top-qual­ity ingredi­ents are the king­maker in any culin­ary delight. Gast­ro­nom­ic insti­tu­tions like Moore Wilson’s have been integ­ral in pro­mot­ing the loc­al scene and the simple premise that fresh is best.

Fish­Head have chosen four loc­al enter­prises that show­case this spir­it and vital­ity, and sent Brock Oliv­er and pho­to­graph­er Matt Evans to doc­u­ment the excit­ing new buzz.

Big Bad Wolf Charcuterie 

The Wolf of Wakefield Street


Enter­ing the Big Bad Wolf premises, I am greeted by a tongue-in-cheek hand-sketched mes­sage painted on the wall: “WARNING: Our products may con­tain… Pork, Alpaca, Tahr, Goose, Snails, Rab­bit, Pork, Veal, Ven­ison, Clams, Beef, Ostrich, Lamb, Paua, Pork, Duck, Sal­mon, Pork…”, undoubtedly the broad­est catch­ment of game meat you’ll ever come across, with an obvi­ous emphas­is on the humble pig.

Big Bad Wolf is a char­cu­ter­ie — an estab­lish­ment spe­cial­ising in the art of salt­ing, smoking and cur­ing. At its core are wild game and happy pigs, which with an alchemy of clas­sic tra­di­tions and Kiwi fusion are piped into saus­ages, finely sliced as pros­ciutto, or refined into ter­rine. When the ingredi­ents are this good, the pos­sib­il­it­ies are truly free-range.

Gab­ri­el Hall and head chef Manni Hunt estab­lished Big Bad Wolf in Octo­ber 2012, both hav­ing pre­vi­ously owned res­taur­ants in Wel­ling­ton (Hall had Boulot on Blair Street, while Hunt had owned Eat­er­ia de Man­on in New­town). The trans­ition from res­taur­at­eurs to char­cu­ter­ie was a wild swing into the front line of anim­al life, vis­it­ing farms and embra­cing the ter­rain of the inhabitants.

After a nifty espresso and chat with Hall, it is obvi­ous that a lot of the enthu­si­asm about BBW lies in the loc­al catch­ment of each anim­al brought into the premises. With pork at the heart of the busi­ness — 12 pigs per week are roas­ted on site — it is essen­tial to get nose down among some facts.

After a fact-find­ing and sourcing mis­sion at the Soggy Bot­tom pig­gery in Ngaru­awahia, Hall and Hunt settled on a sup­pli­er in Otaki, an idyll of piggy life­style where chubby wob­blers graze hap­pily in an apple and pear orchard.

I’ve been to a few pig­ger­ies now and the usu­al beha­viour for them is to go nuts when you step in their yard — because they think you’re going to feed them — but these pigs are so pla­cid, they amble around the orch­ard, and when they’re a little peck­ish they whack a tree with their rump, wait for the fruit to fall (includ­ing chest­nuts and avo­cado when in sea­son) and lazily graze.”

All the anim­als are butchered on site, nose to tail, and all the body parts are used — includ­ing the organs, which are used in pâté and ter­rine products.

The alpaca are from the Hawke’s Bay, wan­der­ing and graz­ing on coast­line cliff tops. Goat, wild hare, rab­bit, tahr [Him­alay­an moun­tain goat] all live in the alpine grass­lands and foot­hills of the South­ern Alps and are cer­ti­fied in Blenheim.”

In a weird twist of col­on­isa­tion, it is evid­ent that loc­al really is best when it comes to eco­logy and sus­tain­ab­il­ity, as Hall elab­or­ates: “The tahr are iron­ic­ally nearly extinct in the Him­alay­as, but are plen­ti­ful in the Alps, where they were intro­duced for hunt­ing in 1904. Now they’re a bit of a pest, espe­cially dam­aging to the nat­ive alpine vegetation.”

The back story to every anim­al that enters the premises not only adds a depth of fla­vour, but also a strong visu­al image of wild beasts roam­ing free over the hills. That is cer­tainly not some­thing you feel as you stand in line at your loc­al supermarket.



Estab­lished: 2012

Motto: All the bet­ter to tempt you with

Selling point: A mix of old-world tra­di­tion and new-world techniques

Drinks match: A bold Otago Shiraz or earthy Hawke’s Bay Syrah[/danger]


Zelati Gelato and Sorbet

Cream of the Crop


An alley tucked off Tawa’s Main Road is an unlikely place to find a gour­met artis­an gelato and sorbet fact­ory, but on an unusu­ally hot Wel­ling­ton day it all makes per­fect sense. Founder Alberto Tuason is all about cre­at­ing the ulti­mate indul­gence with as little guilt as pos­sible. In a city where oth­er boutique gelato makers — Gel­lis­simo and Kaf­fee Eis — already have a strong foothold, it takes a brave man to enter this niche mar­ket. The strength of Zelati is their very Kiwi approach to fusion — a detail that adds a real flair to the brand and Tuason’s extremely high stand­ards in sourcing the best fruit and nat­ur­al flavourings.

Tuason is a self-con­fessed food­ie and chocol­ate addict who grew up in a fam­ily of res­taur­at­eurs in Manila in the Phil­ip­pines. While he has spent most of the last two dec­ades work­ing in IT, he has found time to attend to his sweet tooth by com­plet­ing a chocol­ati­er dip­loma in Mel­bourne and is a cer­ti­fied maes­tro gelatiere/sorbetiere gradu­ate of the Carpi­gi­ani Gelato Uni­ver­sity — the train­ing insti­tute of the Carpi­gi­ani com­pany in Bologna, foun­ded in 1944 by broth­ers Poerio Carlo and Bruto Carpi­gi­ani, pion­eers and main­tain­ers of the gold stand­ard of gelato mak­ing. Tuason has sev­en cer­ti­fic­ates from the Gelato Uni­ver­sity, includ­ing in the health side of the art­form (such as allergies).

Tuason arrived in New Zea­l­and in 1994 with his wife Rose, and con­tin­ued to work in the IT industry while still har­bour­ing dreams of set­ting up his own café. He opened the Zelati fact­ory and retail space last year — a truly fam­ily affair, with his three daugh­ters involved in help­ing set up the business.

Part of the inspir­a­tion to pur­sue gelato and sorbet (rather than ice cream) was due to my cho­les­ter­ol levels being quite high, so I went for this health­i­er form of sweet indul­gence. My young­est daugh­ter, Faith, is also lactose-intol­er­ant, so that was a motiv­at­ing factor in devel­op­ing the sorbet line. I devel­op all the recipes, with my fam­ily as will­ing guinea pigs!”

Tuason finds the Kiwi food scene inspir­ing and sup­port­ive, and is vigil­ant in his pur­suit of cre­at­ing a truly gour­met product. Most import­antly, he avoids using a ‘pre-mix’ base to cre­ate his gelato, an oft-used short cut in the pro­cess. He sources as much fruit as pos­sible from New Zea­l­and — mainly from Hawke’s Bay — with pine­apples from the Phil­ip­pines, bana­nas from Ecuador, Mag­dalena man­goes from Colom­bia, vanilla from Tahiti and rasp­ber­ries from Chile. His chocol­ate is a high-qual­ity 70 per­cent-cocoa-based Guyana product made in Bel­gi­um, and the start­ing point for his gelato is Zany Zeus organ­ic milk.

Accord­ing to Tuason, Zelati’s latest sig­na­ture fla­vour — and their most unique fusion so far — is plum and pine­apple, a won­der­ful mar­riage of the super-sweet and the slightly tart. After a con­ser­vat­ive tast­ing ses­sion of the whole gelato and sorbet range — 13 fla­vours in total — it is strik­ing how clean and refresh­ing each fla­vour is, del­ic­ately bal­anced with a reli­ance on actu­al fruit for the major­ity of the sug­ar content.

While Zelati is less than a year old, their products are already avail­able in Moore Wilson’s, selec­ted New World super­mar­kets in the Wel­ling­ton region and Farro Fresh in Auck­land. They also sup­ply high-end del­icates­sens, cafés, res­taur­ants and hotels.



Estab­lished: 2013

Motto: Indul­gence without guilt

Selling point: Every aspect of the gelato/sorbet-mak­ing pro­cess occurs on site

Drinks match: An eleg­ant glass of Pinot Grigio[/info]


Nuts About Peanut Butter

Fix and Fogg


Named after Detect­ive Fix and Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, Fix and Fogg is an homage to the sense of adven­ture that Andrea and Roman Jew­ell have inves­ted in their pea­nut but­ter enterprise.

The couple met while study­ing law in the UK — Andrea is from Cam­bridge, while Roman grew up in Devon­port on Auckland’s North Shore — and returned to New Zea­l­and to prac­tise law and start a fam­ily. What star­ted out as a home-kit­chen obses­sion has turned into a small busi­ness that has gone gang­busters, with Roman quit­ting his day job lec­tur­ing to final-year law stu­dents at Vic­tor­ia Uni­ver­sity. Unsur­pris­ingly, many of his friends and fam­ily thought he was mad, but also admired the couple’s vis­ion of turn­ing a dream into an actu­al boutique trade.

The reas­on we star­ted this is that we saw that there was nobody out there mak­ing artis­an pea­nut but­ter,” says Roman. “There is 90 per­cent less salt in Fix and Fogg than oth­er com­par­able brands. All the nuts added to make the super-crunchy vari­ety are hand-ground and spooled by hand into jars. It is a very simple pro­cess, but it is time-con­sum­ing. The high qual­ity of our product is due to tak­ing care, every step of the way.”

After humble begin­nings, work­ing out of the kit­chen at the Hataitai Bowl­ing Club, Fix and Fogg HQ is now a former butcher’s shop — Luigi’s — in Els­don, Pori­rua, an excep­tion­ally anonym­ous loc­a­tion where Roman spends his days in the front room of the build­ing. It is a simple set-up, with large sacks of nuts stacked on one side and the bespoke grinder, jar-ster­il­iser and oth­er paraphernalia on the oth­er. Roman can churn through 150 jars a day, turn­ing the roas­ted nuts — which are sourced from north Queens­land — into glossy pea­nut but­ter. Marl­bor­ough sea salt is sprinkled into the mix­ture, and for a crunchy batch he hand-grinds the nuts and care­fully folds them in.

One of the things that people are enjoy­ing more and more is being able to have a dia­logue with a product, pic­tur­ing how it was made and the per­son­al­it­ies behind it. Yes­ter­day we went in the Wel­ling­ton Chocol­ate Fact­ory, and the exper­i­ence you have from being in an open-plan fact­ory and see­ing how the product is made adds a real depth to the exper­i­ence. We don’t have that kind of work space at the moment, but we’d love to in the future. With the Wel­ling­ton food scene, people like to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the food they’re eat­ing, a story behind it — it’s a pretty soph­ist­ic­ated con­sumer base we’ve got here.

I think the biggest chal­lenge with this busi­ness is how to do it on a small com­mer­cial basis, to keep involved with every step of the pro­cess in a man­age­able way. It’s usu­ally either a big boys’ game, or someone in their kit­chen, grind­ing up nuts and selling them at the farm­ers’ mar­ket — which is how we star­ted out. Ideally we’d love to grow into some­thing sim­il­ar to the Wel­ling­ton Chocol­ate Fact­ory; where they are ‘bean to bar’, we would be ‘nut to jar’.”

The beauty of Fix and Fogg’s pea­nut but­ter lies in the truly simple pro­cess — one that took a good dol­lop of Kiwi ingenu­ity to mas­ter, but with a stamp of qual­ity con­trol that will remain, no mat­ter how much the boutique busi­ness blos­soms. Keep­ing true to their Aro Val­ley roots, the couple sell their smooth and super-crunchy pea­nut but­ter at vin­tage shop The Gen­er­al Store, Aro Café and Moore Wilson’s. The humble pea­nut has nev­er tasted so good!



Estab­lished: 2013

Motto: No short cuts or funny business

Selling point: Hand-ground with 90 per­cent less salt than most competitors

Drinks match: Keep­ing with the Aro Val­ley theme, a Gar­age Pro­ject Venus­i­an Pale Ale[/warning]


 The Wellington Chocolate Factory

Bean to Bar

WCF-0006Walk­ing into the Wel­ling­ton Chocol­ate Fact­ory in the hot­test boutique cuisine pre­cinct in the city — Eva and Leeds streets — is a jour­ney back in time to won­der­ful child­hood memor­ies. Here you can relive those Wil­lie Wonka day­dreams of unwrap­ping beau­ti­ful chocol­ate bars, savour­ing the olfact­ory sen­sa­tions and invad­ing the taste buds with an indul­gence that stretches back 3,500 years to ancient May­an cul­ture, where the cacao tree was revered like a god.

            Situ­ated in a space on Eva Street that used to be the Hannah’s shoe fact­ory in the 1930s is one of the most inspir­ing food­ie fit-outs ever seen in Wel­ling­ton city. When Rochelle Har­ris­on and Gab­ri­el Dav­id­son joined forces to estab­lish the Wel­ling­ton Chocol­ate Fact­ory in 2013, the dream of the ‘bean-to-bar’ chocol­ate exper­i­ence became a real­ity with the fact­ory open­ing its doors to the pub­lic in Decem­ber last year.

            They took great care over the open-plan exper­i­ence, which allows cus­tom­ers to observe the pro­cess of chocol­ate mak­ing: roast­ing the cocoa beans; milling, grind­ing and ten­der­ising them; then pour­ing the chocol­ate and set­ting the bars. Along the way, the couple took a few tips from the legendary Mast Broth­ers of Brook­lyn, New York, both aes­thet­ic­ally and in the pro­duc­tion pro­cess. The trans­par­ency of the bean-to-bar approach is enabled by large-pane win­dows, through which cus­tom­ers can see the roast­ers and the work area adja­cent to the counter.

            “It’s been fun to have a rab­bit war­ren to play with and great to bring back that fact­ory feel to this area,” says Harrison.

            It took two months to set the fact­ory up, with a lot of fam­ily help — Harrison’s fath­er is a harp maker and join­er, while Davidson’s moth­er and aunt did all the white tiles that give the space a crisp and clean edge. “At the moment there’s a lot of gaf­fer tape and num­ber eight wire hold­ing a few things togeth­er, but we have two engin­eers work­ing on solu­tions as the com­pany expands — one of them is a bal­list­ics expert. They’re as excited as we are about the bur­geon­ing craft bar scene,” says Davidson.

            Harrison’s exper­i­ence was as a pastry chef and chocol­ate maker — her brand was the Cocoa Press. Dav­id­son, mean­while, was a cof­fee roast­er with an obses­sion for chocol­ate, spe­cific­ally top-qual­ity drink­ing chocol­ate. He set up his first com­pany, Mofo Deluxe, in Mel­bourne sev­en years ago. After a bean-to-bar-inspired trip to New York, he came back to Wel­ling­ton and dis­covered the Cocoa Press on sale in Com­mon­sense Organ­ics. The couple joined forces, invest­ing a chunk of money in the neces­sary equip­ment and cre­at­ing the resources to pro­duce 20 times more chocol­ate at their new premises.

            “We focus on single-ori­gin beans to show­case the subtle com­plex­it­ies from around the globe. The dif­fer­ence you taste is noth­ing we’ve done, but rather about strip­ping it back and pay­ing atten­tion to extract the inher­ent qual­it­ies in the beans them­selves,” says Dav­id­son. As part of the pro­cess, Dav­id­son trav­elled to Peru to meet some of his farm­ers; oth­er beans (all Fair Trade and organ­ic) are sourced from Trin­id­ad, the Domin­ic­an Repub­lic and Mad­a­gas­car, and each has its own nuances, much like wine and cof­fee. The couple’s bean broker — Gino — oper­ates out of Port­land, Ore­gon, sourcing the highest-qual­ity beans for them. They hope to add a Pacific Rim aspect to their chocol­ati­er port­fo­lio, with a poten­tial sup­pli­er in Pap­ua New Guinea look­ing very likely in the near future.

            The future is look­ing pretty sweet for the Wel­ling­ton Chocol­ate Fact­ory — do your­self a favour and vis­it their premises at 5 Eva Street, where you’ll exper­i­ence way more than a mere chocol­ate crav­ing. It’s a true craft and culin­ary experience.



Estab­lished: 2010 (with the fact­ory itself open­ing in 2013)

Motto: Single-ori­gin, 70 per­cent cocoa, bean to bar

Selling point: The per­fect aes­thet­ic treat­ment is giv­en to each step of the process

Drinks match: At Golding’s Free Dive (14 Leeds Street), look out for a beer they are devel­op­ing using chocol­ate nibs from WCF[/access]

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