The jitters, the anticipation and the sheer joy of it all…
Back in April this year, with my stomach doing flip-flops akin to a teenager on a first date, I walked through the door of a building that was being transformed by some very talented people. This space was once home to the incredibly popular eatery Vinnies, in the upmarket suburb of Herne Bay, Auckland. In its heyday it was known for exquisite cuisine, sultry dining nooks and dim lighting, all of which set the mood for a faithful following of foodies.
On this day, however, the proud new owners, Nick Honeyman and Jeffrey Costello, and their ‘team with a dream’ were vigorously attacking the bones of this iconic restaurant with tools more familiar to 'tradies' than chefs. It wouldn’t be long until the opening of a light, airy, fresh new space that is now Paris Butter, serving classic French bistro fare with unpretentious style in abundance!
As these truly passionate individuals worked tirelessly over many months to make this long-term dream come to fruition, I also began to see the story of my food from Ruth’s Gardens unfolding.
I presented a basket of samples to Head Chef William Lauder who happily downed his tools to feel, smell, taste and enjoy handfuls of freshly picked fennel, dill, parsley and whatever else was up for grabs from my morning forage. The joy I felt as he savoured the real flavour and unspoiled taste of my herbs was just pure happiness. For me, it doesn’t get much better than to know someone appreciates the simple pleasure of food the way it’s meant to taste!
In this moment, I realized that although my work-space is a far cry from an elegant and stylish city restaurant, Ruth’s Gardens is my special space. It’s where I work hard to keep my mum’s legacy alive as I research, plan and implement the planting of carefully selected organic and heirloom varieties sourced as locally as possible. The real story of food starts to be told long before it gets to the plates of discerning diners.
Something I read recently sums it up nicely…
This food on our plates,
this sustenance we absorb,
has a story to tell.
It has a journey.
It leaves a footprint.
It leaves a legacy.
To eat with reckless abandon,
without conscience, without knowledge;
folks, this ain’t normal!
The relationship I have with food is one of respect and nurturing, much like the one I have with the chefs as we work together, planning and growing for a new season. There will, no doubt, be challenges and possibly some flop-crops among the star performers as mother nature is bound to have many more lessons for me yet. But that is the beauty of it – the continuous learning and sharing of knowledge in the hope that others will have more appreciation of where our food comes from.
The story needs to be told, not only through the deft hands of the inspirational chefs, of whom I have great admiration, but through a whole team of people. The artfully considered French inspired interior (by Olga Skorik of Ermitage Design) sets the scene at Paris Butter and the talented General Manager Irene Karsten and her vivacious team are well versed in the origins of every dish that goes up on the pass. The story is not only told through the flavour but by all those along the way who grow, prepare and lovingly deliver it. This becomes a feast for all of the senses and I believe the appreciation should begin long before the first mouthful!
The journey, from earth to plate evolves and changes just like the seasons, and establishments may fade in and out along the way but one thing should always remain - the telling of ‘the story’ leading to the ultimate enjoyment and deep love of food.