Would your fam­ily meal pass a peer re­view? Can­vas checks out “staffies”.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOS BY DEAN PURCELL

You won’t find it on the menu, but it’s the most demo­cratic din­ner in town. The calm be­fore the cus­tomer storm, the 15 min­utes when the ex­ec­u­tive chef sits along­side the dish­washer and ev­ery­body eats. Restau­rants call this the “fam­ily meal”. Can­vas went be­hind the scenes at three Auck­land eater­ies.

Cazador, 4.40pm.

In the ta­ble by the kitchen pass (no, that spat­ula should not be on fire!) they talk home­made py­rotech­nics, who is go­ing to the Child­ish Gam­bino gig and won­der, idly, about tack­ling the Ton­gariro Cross­ing.

Co-owner and front-of-house Rebecca Smidt ad­vises: “Quite a clus­ter-eff for you guys at 7.”

Co-owner and chef Dar­iush Lo­laiy ad­vises: “I think I might do a quick beet­root side. Tar­ragon, ca­pers and ver­mouth vine­gar.”

In the clip-on high chair, the cou­ple’s 8-mon­thold daugh­ter, Azhar, chews on car­rot and karaage chicken. The lat­ter has been made by chef de par­tie (CDP) Yuko Iyanagi.

“I cook that karaage chicken once a month,” says Iyanagi. “Be­cause ev­ery­one loves deep-fried chicken. I’m Ja­panese, so I want to make proper Ja­panese food for ev­ery­one to try.”

There is kale (the bar­tender is a univer­sity stu­dent and she wor­ries he may not be eat­ing veg­eta­bles) and squeezy bot­tles of mayo and sriracha.

“I’m away from my home,” says Iyanagi. “I don’t see my par­ents more than once a year. This feels warm. We have din­ner to­gether ev­ery day. I don’t know how to ex­plain it but it is just a warm kind of feel­ing. Ev­ery­one is like fam­ily.”

On a busy night, it’s a ta­ble for eight. “The CDP, the dish­washer, the front-of-house,” Smidt runs through the list. “For­mer crew.” She looks at her daugh­ter. “Fu­ture crew.”

Min­utes be­fore 5pm, Smidt mops up car­rot and crumbs. This is the restau­rant her in-laws founded more than 30 years ago. The cus­tomers will eat veni­son bre­saola and poussin hearts, but first and al­ways, you feed the fam­ily.

De­pot and Fed Deli, 3pm.

“Filipino, Chi­nese, Ital­ian, English, Ton­gan, In­dian, Sri Lankan,” says An­drew Mackle, ex­ec­u­tive chef at De­pot and the Fed Deli. “Right at the mo­ment, I think there’s two or three Ki­wis in here.”

The United Na­tions of Hos­pi­tal­ity is hav­ing fish pie for lunch. Cor­rec­tion. “Fush pie,” ex­ag­ger­ates Mackle, as he de­posits a bechamel be­he­moth.

This is the “fam­ily meal” cooked daily for the wait­ers, bar­tenders, run­ners, dish­wash­ers and chefs of these Fed­eral St eater­ies. Fif­teen min­utes of tomato sauce and ban­ter down the back of a restau­rant where pun­ters eat oys­ters at $4.50 apiece. Food as fuel. Cook­ing for kin­ship. This may be the only time to­day these work­ers sit down.

The roast pota­toes are made from the in­nards of the po­tato skins cus­tomers eat with truf­fle oil and porcini salt. The pie comes from the ha­puku trim­mings. Zero waste.

“We try not to make it overly heavy,” says Mackle, as in­dus­trial-sized bowls of salad and slaw are brought to the ta­ble. “You don’t want

them to go back in the kitchen and then go to sleep, or drag their feet around the floor. But you do want them fed and ready to go.”

Restau­rant owner Al Brown calls it “the trough of love”. On the floor, they call it “staffies” and usu­ally who­ever is in charge of the oven sec­tion de­cides what to cook for this 3pm feed­ing frenzy.

“I quite like do­ing it,” says Mackle. “I’m in the of­fice most of the time, bark­ing or­ders. So it’s nice to oc­ca­sion­ally say, ‘Here you go.’ It’s giv­ing back.”

Saan, 5pm.

The whole dried chilli is a wiz­ened fin­ger of fire. “What will hap­pen if I eat this? Will I die?” The sous chef smiles at the staffer. “Yeah, maybe.”

They sit board­ing-school style at Saan, wait­resses and run­ners drift­ing in like teenagers, tak­ing op­po­site sides of the long ta­ble. In the semi-pri­vate room with the rat­tan di­viders, their soup may or may not con­tain chicken; it cer­tainly in­cludes whole chilli.

Ev­ery bowl is be­spoke. Jinyeol Kim is shy about tonight’s staff of­fer­ing.

“I think Thai food is much bet­ter than other food. I put chicken into it, be­cause ev­ery­one loves chicken, I think. But it is easy to cook for veg­e­tar­i­ans too.”

Spoons drag, soup is drained. Nobody asks for sec­onds, ev­ery­body knows what hap­pens next. This is a fra­grantly fu­elled ma­chine.

An­to­nia Long is from Eng­land and she’s worked here as a wait­ress and a bar­tender.

“The kitchen puts so much love into these meals. We all ar­rive just be­fore the shift starts so we can eat to­gether. We ask each other how we are and we care about each other like a real fam­ily. I’ve worked in restau­rants where you just eat when you can. It’s nice there is a set time. My fam­ily is so far away and some­times it’s re­ally stress­ful in hos­pi­tal­ity. Here, we just feel re­ally to­gether.”


The en­tire “fam­ily”,from left: Bren­dan Kyle, Bur­ford, Lo­laiy, Azhar, Smidt, for­mer staffer Re­bekah Guy, waiter Donata Kukyte and chef de par­tie Yuko Iyanagi.

Karaage chicken for (from left) Johnny Bur­ford, Dar­iush Lo­laiy and Rebecca Smidt and raw car­rot for 8-month-old daugh­ter Azhar.

Jess Pfaen­der (left) and Cece Mo­rales Flores at the De­pot and Fed Deli’s “trough of love”.

An­drew Mackle.

Cazador staff — present, past and fu­ture — sit down to­gether at 4.30pm daily. From left: Lo­laiy, Azhar, Guy and Kukyte.

Let them eat meat (the staff will be hav­ing chicken and vege).

Iyanagi (far left) shares her karaage chicken.

Michaela Fut­ter.

From left: Mackle, Nick Lands­man, Kiwa Royal and Vikrant Sirohi at the De­pot and Fed Deli “fam­ily meal” served to staff ev­ery day around 3.30pm

Ed­ward Bail­lieu.

From left: Mo­rales Flores, Pfaen­der, Te Aroha Korewha and Chiara Ped­er­sen.

Above, staff at Pon­sonby’s Saan sit down for “fam­ily meal” be­fore their shift. From left: Alice Alchin, Kodi Singh, Navpreet Singh, An­to­nia Long and Flo­ri­ane Guyot.

Sous chef Jinyeol Kim (far right) de­liv­ers be­spoke bowls to Saan staff. Sit­ting, from left: Alchin, Kodi Singh, D’ancy Brown and Wiremu Ni­cholls. Stand­ing: Navpreet Singh and Saowaluk Kengvi­bool.

Tom yum gai (or just tom yum for the veg­e­tar­i­ans).

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