The sweet life

A fam­ily’s new ad­ven­ture in Akaroa – thanks to the hum­ble dough­nut

Nadia - - CONTENTS -

In the pic­turesque sea­side set­tle­ment of Akaroa on the Banks Penin­sula, a 1959 alu­minium Airstream car­a­van is car­ry­ing a very spe­cial cargo. You can spot it cruis­ing up and down the windy hills be­fore park­ing up with windows open wide. Hun­gry pa­trons ar­rive in droves, fol­low­ing their noses to­wards the sweet scent of de­lec­ta­ble, of­ten slightly out­ra­geous, home­made doughnuts. Rachel Sav­age, the Sweet & Sav­age dough­nut queen, blames her ob­ses­sion with these sweet, fried

favours on the fresh coun­try air and the range of pro­duce run­ning ram­pant in her gar­den, beg­ging to be show­cased. She’s clearly a woman with a vi­sion who doesn’t rest on her lau­rels for long – her cur­rent list of job ti­tles in­cludes food stylist and con­trib­u­tor, reg­is­tered nurse, wife and mum of two. But it’s Rachel’s ta­lent for con­coct­ing cre­ative dough­nut flavours that’s de­light­ing tourists and lo­cals alike and mak­ing the name ‘Sav­age’ syn­ony­mous with some­thing sweet rather than some­thing scary.

As we rem­i­nisce about when her dough­nut ob­ses­sion be­gan, Rachel laughs that it started out un­in­ten­tion­ally with a food blog. A kitchen junkie from way back whose friends of­ten asked her for recipes, Rachel started post­ing on­line to make shar­ing them eas­ier. Fol­low­ing a move from cen­tral Welling­ton to ru­ral Banks Penin­sula, Rachel be­gan play­ing around with a ba­sic dough­nut recipe in her spare time and adorn­ing her cre­ations with an eclec­tic as­sort­ment of top­pings be­fore test­ing them out on ap­pre­cia­tive fam­ily and friends.

Need­less to say, her ex­per­i­ments were a hit, al­though Rachel in­sists they aren’t any­thing fancy. She says there are no par­tic­u­lar rules when it comes to the top­pings. “They are all sim­ple with del­i­cate flavours based on clas­sic com­bi­na­tions,” she ex­plains. “I en­joy experimenting and play­ing around, but you do have to keep it reined in as it still has to taste good!”

Sell­ing these sweet cre­ations on a large scale wasn’t in the plan un­til Rachel and hus­band Kristin hap­pened to drive past a beau­ti­ful, retro Airstream car­a­van parked up on the side of the road in Burkes Pass, not far from Lake Tekapo, last year. On a whim, Rachel en­quired at the lo­cal store as to who owned the car­a­van. The op­tion to buy it was of­fered right then and there and, af­ter a year spent ren­o­vat­ing the beauty to its for­mer glory, the Sweet & Sav­age dough­nut eatery was born.

Best-sell­ing flavours in­clude choco­late with mint and hazel­nut, gin and lemon with poppy seeds, peanut but­ter with cream cheese and home­made rasp­berry flakes, vanilla and straw­berry with pis­ta­chio and rose flow­ers, and rasp­berry with lemon and co­conut. Pre­sen­ta­tion is para­mount and al­lows Rachel to let her cre­ative tal­ents shine. “For me, a big part of the dough­nut is the aes­thetic. Ev­ery dough­nut is in­di­vid­u­ally hand-crafted and uniquely im­per­fect.”

The car­a­van’s doughnuts now sell out at its pop-up lo­ca­tions thanks to a loyal fol­low­ing on Face­book and In­sta­gram, and the cou­ple sup­ply a num­ber of lo­cal Can­ter­bury eater­ies, too. They’ve also launched on­line sales for their Box of Nine, which is prov­ing a hit.

It’s safe to say the first year of busi­ness has been a busy time. “We have a bit to jug­gle at the mo­ment with the farm, nurs­ing and fam­ily, so I need to be pretty or­gan­ised,” says Rachel. “Ev­ery night I prep stuff for the day ahead and get up at 4am to cook the doughnuts fresh while the girls are sleep­ing. When they wake up around 7am, I’m still beaver­ing away in the car­a­van to get my or­ders sorted for the day, so

my hus­band gets the kids break­fast be­fore he heads out the door for work.”

But she’s not com­plain­ing: it’s an ex­cit­ing growth phase for their brand and Rachel en­joys the process of bak­ing, cre­at­ing and mar­ket­ing her prod­ucts. It’s very much a joint en­deav­our, with Kristin ded­i­cat­ing hours to busi­ness strat­egy, as well as get­ting stuck in with set­ting up and serv­ing cof­fee. Friends and fam­ily jumped on board to help get the busi­ness off the ground last sum­mer and friendly cus­tomers of­ten re­turn for more.

Their daugh­ters, Pip­pin, 5, and Fern, 3, love to help out. “Pip­pin is ob­sessed with the car­a­van and spends hours draw­ing signs for the eatery. She loves any op­por­tu­nity to sell as well. Of­ten I’ll hear a tiny knock at the car­a­van door and it’s Fern pop­ping in for a visit, but I’m pretty firm with the kids about stay­ing out while I’m prep­ping.”

For Rachel the best part of the job is the peo­ple she meets as she sells her treats. “It’s not just about the doughnuts, it’s re­ally the peo­ple that make it all worth­while,” she ex­plains. “The ba­sis of Sweet & Sav­age has al­ways been about peo­ple and hav­ing a plat­form to make con­nec­tions. Shar­ing food and cof­fee is a beau­ti­ful way to en­able this.”

Some ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties have arisen through these con­nec­tions too, with Rachel be­ing in­vited to write recipe con­tri­bu­tions for mag­a­zines and work on food styling jobs, which she loves. “There are a ton of clever peo­ple out there do­ing some ex­cit­ing things and we love be­ing able to col­lab­o­rate with other cre­atives,” she says.

So next time you are in Akaroa, keep an eye out for the gleam­ing Airstream. You’re in for a treat.

“Sweet & Sav­age has al­ways been about peo­ple and hav­ing a plat­form to make con­nec­tions. Shar­ing food and cof­fee is a beau­ti­ful way to en­able this”

Wheels in mo­tion This 1959 Airstream car­a­van may have been ren­o­vated into the perfect ve­hi­cle for sell­ing doughnuts, but it’s Rachel who’s the real driv­ing force be­hind Sweet & Sav­age. Her fam­ily’s ru­ral prop­erty on the Banks Penin­sula pro­vides a lot...

The cherry on top For Rachel, there are no rules when it comes to top­pings and pre­sen­ta­tion – the aes­thet­ics of Sweet & Sav­age’s doughnuts are all part of the charm. One thing’s for sure, though: they have to taste good!

Fam­ily ties Sweet & Sav­age is a fam­ily af­fair, with Rachel’s hus­band Kristin head­ing up the brand’s strat­egy and get­ting stuck into sell­ing dur­ing the busy sum­mer months. Their two chil­dren, Pip­pin (on the right) and Fern, love to lend a hand, too.

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