us two

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann

Craig Sefton, 35, and Kei Akiyama, 38, serve global street food from their food truck, Beat Kitchen. The duo met while work­ing at C1 Espresso in Christchurch. On week­days, they serve lunch and din­ner from a for­mer li­brary bus on the cor­ner of Welling­ton’s Cuba and Vi­vian streets.

CRAIG/ Kei was de­sign­ing a menu for C1’s slid­ers, which are de­liv­ered to ta­bles through a pneu­matic tube. She needed a helper and that ended up be­ing me. She was an ab­so­lute ninja; she was cook­ing cir­cles around me. It’d been awhile since that had hap­pened.

Work­ing to­gether was so easy, we never had to yell at each other or stitch each other up. It was pretty rare to be able to work with a chef that well.

I was there for un­der a year, then moved to Welling­ton. I gave her a call late one night, say­ing I was think­ing about put­ting a kitchen in the back of a bus. She was like, that’s re­ally dumb. I want in.

I bought the bus at the start of 2015. It took about a year to fit out. Kei moved to Welling­ton at the end of that year, a cou­ple of weeks be­fore we opened. It was New Year’s Eve and we were at McEwan Park in Pe­tone at the Fat Freddy’s [Drop] con­cert. That was our maiden voy­age. We were lit­er­ally straight out of the garage.

We make as much as we can from scratch – we only buy our burger buns. We change the menu ev­ery day. We don’t re­ally have a par­tic­u­lar cui­sine – we go from coun­try to coun­try. Kei, be­ing Ja­panese, is all over that side of things. She’s done a lot of trav­el­ling in South Amer­ica and she’s quite good on that, too.

I’ve done more of Europe. I learnt how to cook French food in France and picked up a few things in other places, and Thai­land.

We have a ware­house where we park the truck and keep all our mis­cel­la­neous things. We turn up around 9.30am-ish. We pack the truck up, head into town, set up for lunch, get through lunch. Nor­mally, we leave about 3pm to get to a din­ner gig. A lot of our sup­pli­ers will de­liver to wher­ever we are – we’ll pull up some­where and 20 min­utes later, the vege guy will ar­rive, the fish guy will ar­rive, the bread guy.

I do all the of­fice work and ad­min, and the driv­ing. Kei does most of the cook­ing. We both do prep. I’ll nor­mally sit there tak­ing or­ders and smash through emails while she’s do­ing ser­vice.

I can run a kitchen but run­ning a busi­ness is an­other story. That’s been my hard­est learn­ing curve. We must be do­ing some­thing right. We’re booked out for wed­dings next year.

Kei’s def­i­nitely the calm and col­lected one. Quite me­thod­i­cal and fo­cused.

Our go-to meals? I don’t know what hers would be. Prob­a­bly a big bowl of ra­men? She might punch me for that. I’m into com­fort food when I’m at home – prob­a­bly na­chos. We both like a wine here and there.

I’m in a band as well so that takes up most of my spare time, play­ing drums. That’s my stress re­lief.

How would I de­scribe her? I nor­mally say “short Ja­panese girl with dread­locks” but that’s prob­a­bly not very ap­pro­pri­ate. Amaz­ing Ja­panese chef. She knows karate – don’t mess with her. I’m not 100 per cent sure if she does ac­tu­ally know karate or not. I just tell peo­ple that. I know she’s re­ally good at origami.

KEI/ We met four or five years ago in Christchurch. I was work­ing at C1 Espresso and Craig joined the team. First im­pres­sion: he’s good. He’s ca­sual as, knows what he’s do­ing. You don’t see many chefs like that – very easy to work with. We were hav­ing Craig’s leav­ing drinks in Christchurch and I asked him, “Do you want to do some­thing in the fu­ture?” He was keen.

I was up in Whangarei and I got a phone call – he’d re­mem­bered. I stayed in Whangarei for a year and we just kept ring­ing each other look­ing for the food truck. We found the bus in Auck­land, so Craig flew up and I drove down. That was the be­gin­ning.

One of Craig’s friends said: “You’re the drum­mer, what about call­ing it the Beat Kitchen?” My sis­ter did the logo. We haven’t named the bus. We have dis­cussed if it is a boy or a girl. We weren’t sure. I think it’s more like a girl. Tem­per­a­men­tal.

Our first gig was booked in for New Year’s Eve. I was so over­whelmed. All I was think­ing was, “I hope it’s go­ing to work!”

When we first started, no one knew who we were.

I re­mem­ber look­ing at all the other food trucks get­ting cus­tomers think­ing “Oh my God we are quiet – what are we go­ing to do?” I was get­ting wor­ried.

At first, we were look­ing for events and ap­ply­ing. Now we don’t have to. They ask us to come.

Craig takes or­ders and does the email­ing. I’m very s... about that. I don’t like talk­ing to peo­ple! He does all the bak­ing as well, be­cause I suck at that. I cook the food and plan wed­ding menus.

We catered a South African wed­ding and the crowd was half South African. Peo­ple said the flavours were awe­some. We made bunny chow – it’s a curry served in­side hol­lowed-out loaves of bread – and savoury, deep-fried brioche dough­nuts filled up with mince. We served them with Korean daikon salsa.

Craig takes things more se­ri­ously; he is deal­ing with peo­ple, so I think he stresses more than I do. He’s maybe an­noyed that I’m too cruisy. He doesn’t bulls... peo­ple, but he’s got a very kind heart.

“I gave her a call say­ing I was think­ing of put­ting a kitchen in the back of a bus. She was like, that’s re­ally dumb. I want in.”

Pho­to­graph/ Cameron Bur­nell

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.