Tracy Whitmey meets the food folk of Waikanae whose dreams just keep on growing.
Growing up in Waikanae, Todd Cameron always thought it was a pretty cool place. But returning to his home town after a spell living the coastal California life, Todd saw the town with fresh eyes and realised it didn’t quite have the glitter of his memories. As he had tempted his Californian partner, Sara Monaco, into making the move to New Zealand, together they thought, “How can we add some energy to the place. We need to make Waikanae cool.”
The beachy, laid-back vibe of the town worked on them until in 2008 they launched their first venture, Longbeach Café. Way back then they had no inkling that this was the foundation of a mini coastal empire that today has the slap of happy jandals sounding all around town between Longbeach Café & Tavern, Olde Beach Bakery, North End Brewery and, within the brewery, Salt & Wood BBQ, all under the banner of Food Folk.
“After every venture I say ‘No more’,” says Sara. “But we keep on creating a family. We see people with talent and passion and want to create opportunities for them to take on more responsibilities.” Over at Olde Beach Bakery, head baker Harry Kharoud is a perfect example, about to also become a shareholder in the business.
Created in 2012, when the demand for bakery goods outstripped the capacity of Longbeach’s kitchen, Olde Beach Bakery is a tiny corner store crammed with sourdough bread, pies, pastries, sandwiches and these pillowy, decadent doughnuts. It’s bustling with energy, the music is pulsing, bakers squeeze by with trays of bread held high overhead, the coffee is pumping, the little courtyard garden bursts with greenery and in summertime the queue might meander down the street and around the corner. Sara admits a favourite-child soft spot. “The bakery has my heart. It’s a special little shop, a place of delicious food, good vibes and lovely locals.”
Far from being content to sit back on the sand, Sara and Todd have now turned their gaze a little further down the coast to Paekākāriki. There the historic Holtom’s Buildings will, by the end of 2021, house a sister to Waikanae’s Salt & Wood BBQ and another bakery that will ease some of the pressure on the tiny Waikanae premises.
The mix of ventures allows ideas to spark and produces synergies, such as spent grain from the brewery coming into the bakery to be mixed with rye or wholemeal flour and baked into beer loaves. In a neat example of a circular eco-system, the rest of the spent grain from the brewing process is sent to a local venison farmer as feed for the deer, then in due course venison pies nestle into the bakery cabinet for lunch. “We do what we can with what we have,” says Sara. “It’s a heartfelt business, being old-fashioned in a modern world.” foodfolk.co.nz TRACY WHITMEY