The Kiwi deli that cares

In a world where kind­ness, col­lab­o­ra­tion and car­ing for your com­mu­nity is needed now more than ever, An­gela Red­fern and her Auck­land deli is not only dish­ing out de­li­cious food but is run­ning her busi­ness on these guid­ing prin­ci­ples

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance | Contents - BY ALEXIA SANTAMARIA

WWalk­ing into An­gela Red­fern’s iconic Ripe Deli in Auck­land is like be­ing given a gi­ant culi­nary hug. Ev­ery­thing looks so nourishing, home­made and ut­terly de­li­cious you feel like you’re at one of those potluck din­ners where ev­ery­one is an amaz­ing cook. Once you talk to An­gela, you re­alise this is be­cause it rep­re­sents ev­ery­thing she and her team have held dear for the past 15 years: good healthy food, great ser­vice, en­vi­ron­men­tal kind­ness and the de­sire to make peo­ple feel looked af­ter. Deli owner and cook­book au­thor An­gela is me­di­ashy, to say the least. And while she’s one of the pi­o­neers of New Zealand’s healthy food rev­o­lu­tion, she’s never shouted it from the rooftops. “I’m not very showy,” she says “I’m more of a be­hind-thescenes type, not great at public stuff.” But she has much to be proud of, and af­ter 15 years in the busi­ness is shar­ing how she cre­ated such a well-loved Auck­land brand, which has en­dured in a mar­ket that sees cafés, delis and restau­rants open – and close – ev­ery week.

An­gela has al­ways loved cook­ing, and her mum is still an avid cook. One of her first memories is the two of them bak­ing cakes to­gether. “I still have a cute lit­tle book, which I wrote recipes in from as early as when I learned to write − judg­ing by the style of the writ­ing!” It was pretty handy to have this pas­sion when she failed all her school ex­ams in Eng­land (the fam­ily moved to the UK when she was two). “My fa­ther took me to the ca­reers of­fice when I was 18 and they said, ‘What are you in­ter­ested in?’ and I said, ‘Cook­ing.’ That was how it all started, re­ally.”

An­gela went on to do a Higher Na­tional Di­ploma in Hospi­tal­ity Man­age­ment, and as luck would have it, was sent to The Savoy in Lon­don on her first place­ment. “I just loved it. That was back in the day when there were 80 male chefs – I watched a TV pro­gramme on it re­cently, it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent now.”

Hon­ing her skills

An­gela thrived on the ex­pe­ri­ence and loved be­ing part of the ca­ma­raderie and high en­ergy a large es­tab­lish­ment like that brought. “All the or­ders were shouted loudly in French, and I loved watch­ing that level of per­fec­tion. It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing her culi­nary qual­i­fi­ca­tions at City & Guilds, she went to work for Bri­tish de­signer Tri­cia Guild, the founder and Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of De­sign­ers Guild, run­ning her staff cafe. Tri­cia loves healthy food so An­gela found her­self cre­at­ing a nu­tri­tious style of cui­sine, some­thing that ob­vi­ously in­flu­enced her later en­deav­ours.

But her coun­try of birth was call­ing her home

(her Kiwi mother had re­turned to New Zealand around 1990 when she sep­a­rated from her fa­ther) and re­turned in her late 20s. “I worked at Zarbo

when I came back here in 2000, but al­ways thought I wanted to run my own busi­ness. I found Ge­orge’s Burger Bar just up the road here in Grey Lynn and that was for sale – $20,000, I think – and just went from there. I bought Ge­orge’s, my mum had this dis­play fridge from her mar­ket stand so she lent me that, friends came and painted it and an­other friend de­signed my logo. It was a real DIY job!”

The Ripe Deli jour­ney had be­gun. “We opened and I re­mem­ber just sit­ting out­side all day wait­ing for cus­tomers to come,” she says, with a laugh. “But they even­tu­ally did, and then more, and it just took off. It got busier and busier over a pe­riod of a few months. It seems so long ago now.”

Turn­ing points

T‘It’s a no-brainer to do what we can do to help out’

hey even­tu­ally out­grew the space and they moved down the road to big­ger premises. Ripe’s pop­u­lar­ity con­tin­ued to grow, push­ing them to start cater­ing for large and smaller groups too. “I’ve al­ways wanted to sell the healthy, home­made food I would like to eat. For there to be some­where to get a lovely salad or some­thing else for lunch rather than McDon­ald’s. I never wanted to open a café and our seat­ing out­side has only been cre­ated to sup­port our com­mu­nity and meet cus­tomer de­mand. I’ve al­ways been fo­cused on take­out food so peo­ple can get some­thing nourishing and good quickly, to be able to eat it where they choose in their own time.”

Two cook­books fol­lowed – with a third com­ing soon – now bibles for good salad recipes. And ba­bies fol­lowed too. An­gela now has two young chil­dren, Sam (6) and Jes­sica (4), and they rep­re­sented a big turn­ing point in her life. Af­ter work­ing so hard and be­ing so stressed for so long, she just wanted to be a stay-at-home mum and have some down­time for a while. “I am lucky to have such great staff, some of them have been here for the whole time, some for 10 years at least. My friend Lisa came in and man­aged the deli, and I stepped back for al­most two years. Now I have Gemma, who started as a baker but can now run the whole show.”

An­gela’s team is as pas­sion­ate about the busi­ness as she is and they are more like fam­ily than staff. “We all re­spect each other, even if we don’t al­ways agree. And now I have kids, I re­ally un­der­stand the value of fam­ily. I al­ways tell them to take time off if they want to see their child do some­thing at school. It’s so im­por­tant. They’re all re­ally com­mit­ted and I some­times have to tell some of them to go home be­cause they go so far over and above.”

And it’s not just her staff she cares deeply about, it’s also the planet. An­gela has been a pi­o­neer in sus­tain­abil­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prac­tices in the café, us­ing worm bins and com­postable Ecow­are pack­ag­ing. The deli’s sin­gleuse cups are com­postable and they have an or­ganic waste bin, which en­sures the cups will get com­posted too. “As a take­away busi­ness, I have al­ways been con­scious of our pack­ag­ing, so we re­ward and of­fer money off when peo­ple bring in a Keep­Cup and we sell won­der­ful glass jars for sal­ads that a num­ber of cus­tomers have started to use, which we also re­ward.”

Com­mu­nity has also been a huge fo­cus over the past 15 years and An­gela do­nates al­most weekly in the form of prizes and food ham­pers to schools and char­i­ties nearby. They’re also reg­u­lar sup­port­ers of Mercy Hospice fundrais­ers and sell worm juice to save Ma¯ui dol­phins from ex­tinc­tion. It’s ob­vi­ous the busi­ness is fo­cused on a lot more than just the bot­tom line.

“I think ev­ery busi­ness, no mat­ter what size they are, need to be aware of what im­pact their ac­tiv­i­ties have on the en­vi­ron­ment and then do what they can to try to re­verse that. It’s true that lots of small changes can make a big dif­fer­ence. Com­mu­nity is so im­por­tant too,” says An­gela. “We look at it as be­ing part of our fam­ily – you love them and they’ll love you back. We wouldn’t be here with­out our sup­port­ive com­mu­nity so we owe it to them to be a part of it. We’re so pas­sion­ate and grate­ful, it’s a no­brainer to do what we can to help out and give back where pos­si­ble. And once you’re con­sid­ered part of the fam­ily, there’s no go­ing back – they’ll sup­port you for­ever!”

Grow­ing strong

Now it’s time for new chal­lenges. In Oc­to­ber last year, An­gela opened a satel­lite site in the new Gil­trap Group show­room and will be open­ing a new cafe at Smales Farm busi­ness park on Auck­land’s North Shore in mid-Oc­to­ber. There’s also an­other of her fa­mous cook­books due for re­lease this month, aptly named A Third Help­ing. It seems af­ter build­ing the busi­ness up from scratch, and step­ping away to have kids, she’s ready for ex­pan­sion with her com­mit­ted team.

De­spite her suc­cess in the tough hospi­tal­ity and pub­lish­ing scene, An­gela re­mains down-toearth and seems to man­age her life, busi­ness and staff on kind­ness, in­tu­ition and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Ev­ery­thing ap­pears to have evolved or­gan­i­cally, rather than from a five- or 10-year growth plan. The ex­tra café op­por­tu­ni­ties have come from loyal cus­tomers who have fre­quented Ripe for years, while books and cater­ing came about be­cause of cus­tomer de­mand.

Maybe there’s some­thing to learn from this for all busi­ness own­ers – pro­duce some­thing you love, be good to your staff and the planet, get in­volved with your lo­cal com­mu­nity, and busi­ness growth and great op­por­tu­ni­ties will hap­pen nat­u­rally.

Since open­ing Ripe Deliin 2002, An­gela has pub­lished two pop­u­lar cook­books filled with fresh, vi­brant and sea­sonalrecipes. Her lat­est book,Ripe Recipes: A Third Help­ing, is she says, the best one yet and will hitshelves in Oc­to­ber.

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