Changes afoot at Woodlands Cafe
Two weeks after taking over Woodlands Cafe´ Kate Wilson tells Number 8 Network’s Annette Taylor all is going well indeed.
Therewas the small matter of a burglary on their first-ever Sunday. “But you have to look forward, onwards and upwards,” says Kate.
The thieves struck on their first Sunday and made awaywith a chiller-full of food – bacon, eggs, tomatoes, milk.
“It was as if they wanted a big breakfast. At the time, becausewe were getting to gripswith everything else, it was just another thing to deal with. You do what you have to – my husband Allan raced in to town and bought new supplies, and improved the security.”
Today she has a coachload of 47 from Auckland due at 10am for morning tea and regulars dropping by – “we’re learning the flow of everything; how the kitchen works, how it relates to front of house and understanding the tide of people coming in so we can plan and deliver accordingly.”
This is the couple’s first venture into the hospitality industry. Katewas amanaging partner at law firm James& Wells and Allan an engineer, designing sensors for the animal health industry. Both have a background in physics. She says it’s a matter of getting systems in place and making positive changes and the feedback thus far has been positive.
“Localmums come by on Friday afternoons, after school andwe close at 3.30pm. That could have been difficult, becausewe don’t know how many would come, and we need to be doing the dishes and mopping up for the next day. We’veworked out that they’ll let us know how many are coming, roughly, and we’ll use disposables, so therewon’t be any dishes. Thatway they can stay here quite happily and for some time, while we do our normal clean-up.”
They came toWoodlands Cafe´ through amix of reasons. “We had both reached the peak of our careers, and I don’t like being comfortable. Wewere empty nesters – our oldest daughter had gone to uni and our son was in Australia. Wewanted a project we could do together, andwe both love food. Friends have called us mad, which we are, but they understand that this is a great project and we have complementary skills.”
Their interest in food started once they married. “Allan and I were technicians atRuakura and wewere sopoorwehadtogetour meat from the experimental abattoir. Sowe had these lumps of meat and didn’t know what they were and had to find out how to cook them!”
Kate has since published a cookbook and appeared (briefly) on MasterChef. “Weenjoy cooking a lot, and eating. That was part of the driver to come here.”
This passion has been passed on to son Ben, who is a chef and has recently returned from Australia. In fact, he’s now working for them and is responsible for the almond custard croissants in the cabinet.
“They are utterly delicious. We were very careful, saying he was welcome to join us, but we weren’t dependent on him. We didn’t want to compel him – when secretly we did! It’s neat having him on board.”
Benwas trained atWintec, worked in a cafe´ inAustralia and several inNewZealand. To complete the set-up, daughter Rebecca will spend her holidays working at the cafe aswell.
“So it’s quite an exciting time, and we’ll be updating the menu constantly. The bottomline for us is if anyone thinks we can improve our offerings, we’d like to know. Then repeat visitors will hopefully notice improvements each time.”
Head chef Tracey Simpson and chefs Ann-Marie Fielding and Ben allwork collaboratively and it is proving an enjoyable process.
But old favourites will be retained, with a ‘wow’ factor added in. They also want to put in a bar or drinks station, and are looking at bringing in craft brewers. “We’re also starting to know the local community and want to be supportive.
“Woodlands is such a beautiful place, we’re just making certain we continually improve, to make it even better, and to encourage more people to come here. Check us out around Easter, whenwe launch our newmenu. And keep an eye on the Ploughman’s Platter – we’ve got plans for that!”
A family affair: Ben, left, and Kate and Allan lurking in the background.