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.

Hamilton Metro News - - News -

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.

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