Prof’s in the house
There’s another reason to visit the Woodlands Historic Homestead near Gordonton, writes Denise Irvine.
When Hamilton couple Kate and Allan Wilson decided to swap their longestablished careers to run a cafe, many people thought they’d gone bonkers.
Allan was an electronics engineer and Kate was an intellectual property strategist, the managing partner of intellectual property law firm James & Wells.
The Wilsons share what Kate describes as “an intense obsession with food” that began when they were newly married and working at Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre. They bought cheapas-chips meat-packs from the centre’s abattoir and taught themselves how to turn unfamiliar cuts into tasty meals.
Fast forward a few decades to greater culinary experience and skills, and they’ve happily reinvented themselves in the hospitality industry.
Exactly one year ago they took over as owners of the cafe in the glorious grounds of Woodlands Historic Homestead, near Gordonton, on the outskirts of Hamilton.
They rebranded the business as Prof’s@woodlands, refurbished the charming cafe building on the edge of a cricket oval, introduced a menu bright with seasonal produce and creative flavours, gave the cabinet food a thorough makeover and did the same with the beverage selection.
On this Wednesday morning Kate sits outdoors at Prof’s talking about “a year in the life”. She says although she and Allan had prepared thoroughly for their switch to hospitality, they found the reality didn’t quite match the theory.
Makes 2.5 litres.
40 dried red chillies 4 apples, cored 1.5kg sugar 4 cloves garlic, peeled 750ml white vinegar 500ml tomato sauce Remove chilli seeds to reduce heat if desired. Whizz chillies, apples, garlic and some of the vinegar in a food processor. Pour into a pot with remaining ingredients. Cook for an hour and ladle into sterilised jars. Keeps for months in pantry. Great with cheese, pork fillet, poached eggs, homemade pies, savoury muffins. • Profs@woodlands, 42 Whitikahu Rd, Gordonton, phone 0274690694; profs.co.nz Open seven days for breakfast, lunch and refreshments, plus quiz nights on Fridays. play-time in the kitchen as a family, the customer demands and compliance requirements of a commercial kitchen are so much greater than perfecting the taste and technique of a home-cooked meal.
“There’s a huge difference in cooking at home and cooking here.”
Prof’s kitchen is headed by chef Matt Armitage. The Wilsons’ son Ben, a trained chef, cooks part-time, as does Allan. Kate runs front of house and works with the team on menu development.
Daughter Rebecca, who’s just completed a genetics degree, is a dishy and waitress.
Kate and Allan’s aim, always, is for delicious food and excellent service. They sous vide their beef so it is meltingly tender and can be quickly seared for rustic sandwiches. Salmon and chicken are smoked in-house, they use a pressure cooker for a tender, flavoursome lamb tagine and they grow their own herbs and edible flowers.
Plans include opening a second city-based Prof’s cafe and launching their own condiments range, starting with their chilli jam (see recipe left).
Kate says their greatest pleasure is seeing customers relax, laugh, enjoy the food and the unique family-friendly surroundings at Prof’s.
They love good feedback, and get plenty of that. The worst occasions are when they don’t get things quite right. “Seriously, it kicks us in the guts.”
Would they do it again? Yes. “It took longer than I thought to get up to speed,” says Kate.
“It’s a different life but a good life. And it’s great for us to have a project to work on together.”
Ilive in a place where we run out of water when it rains a lot. Try explaining that to your kids. It’s right up there with “How does the internet work?” and “What happened to the guinea pig?”
When the heavens opened recently and all the water ended up in our neighbours’ basement rather than the reservoirs, Aucklanders were asked to save 20 litres per day. I don’t want to skite, but I doubt I even used 20 litres during the near-crisis.
I didn’t shower for a couple of days because I stayed home (it was too hideous to venture out) and worked in my pyjamas and (skip a line if you’re fragile) when I’m deep in thought, I find personal hygiene a distraction.
To be clear, I cleaned my teeth (tap off), had four cups of green tea a day, drank only wine in the evening (such was my commitment), didn’t do laundry (it was persisting down, which is how the trouble started) and left the cat to lap up rainwater, which he prefers. He and I did our bit, is all I’m saying.
I also live in a place where we pay for the water out of our tap, and likely more of us will. There are moves afoot in places like Christchurch to charge separately for water to fund the infrastructure, and to encourage conservation through cost.
I still find it weird, ideologically, when our water bill arrives. I grew up thinking of air and water as “free”. But as a grown-up of some years standing I understand “infrastructure”. People my daughter’s age understand paying for special (it’s not special)al) water that comes in bottles. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d make a case for bottled water being invented as a clever capitalist ruse to make us think of water as a commodity rather than a basic need like, say, breathing.
Nevertheless, I’ll pay for pipes (and fluoride, please) but I have a visceral reaction when I hear private companies are keen to export New Zealand water to other countries. Right now,w, nobody owns our water, so we all do. It seems the worst kind off cheating to turn that into private profit.
The only water that should be taken out of this country is on a long-haul Air New Zealand flight. Just enough to keep me hydrated after a glass of wine, a glass of port and a sleeping pill.l.
Go right ahead and share resources around our islands – I likee it that sand from quarries in Nelson and Dunedin ends up makingng Oriental Bay fun.
I’d also be happy to contribute the stuff that ends up at my place from Milford beach.
Send a stamped self-addressed envelope each summer – just not this one. It’s been raining a lot…