Diva Giles co-owns Beau, a cool little spot in the heart of Ponsonby, just a stone’s throw from my home. I have friends who claim it as their local which, given Ponsonby has so many hipster-friendly joints, is high praise indeed.

Coincidentally, Diva is the daughter of Timothy Giles (someone I’ve known for many years), a high-energy bon vivant who is a well-known identity in the hospitality community.

Chatting with Diva, it’s clear she has inherited her father’s interest in people. Naturally vivacious, she oozes social awareness and positivity. There’s also a charming vulnerability, an honesty that is equally captivating. Part of the appeal comes from Diva’s willingness to be totally upfront about what she likes and what pisses her off.

“I am passionate about people. I am intrigued by how they tick and I get really excited when I meet people who know more about something than me – and that’s most of them. I don’t like people who lack empathy. I think that’s really mean. I much prefer people who show kindness.”

Diva’s deep relationship with her tikanga is seated in her upbringing.

“Tikanga and te reo was always around us and even though I didn’t necessarily jump in boots and all, I did consider it a normal part of our lives. It wasn’t until later I realised that our family relationship with our Māori heritage made us different and, in my mind, special. By the time I went to college I felt my connection to Māori and Pacific culture was really strong.

“Then when I got to university I had adopted a way of thinking about things that I knew was different from others. It’s hard to describe but I feel I was more tolerant than some of my peers. But, anyway, what I saw and experienced made me hate university. It just wasn’t the way I saw the world.”

While this was all happening Diva worked at Prego, one of Ponsonby’s dining icons.

“I loved being a waiter there. I got the contact with people that I craved, I hung out with locals I’d grown up with and I learned what it is I love about hospo.”

She also met Logan Birch, a chef. Soon the pair headed off to Europe for six months, then to live in London where they worked together at The Dairy, which Diva describes as “casual bistro- style but the food was super high end.”

“Travelling was really good for me. I had to suspend my feelings about inequality and diversity and join the ‘real’ world for a while. We lived on about 6-7 quid an hour. We worked really hard, but it was super enjoyable. I loved it.”

A return to Aotearoa and the purchase of a small café in the central city was the next step before they found the space that is now Beau. “We had a really low budget but we managed to rally the troops, ask for favours and set realistic goals and opened when we felt we were ready.

“Dad has always been very supportive and at times volunteered some incredibly useful insights. At other times I totally ignored what he had to say. He has this amazing attention to detail which is good because I know I have to have the same skill. It gets harder as we get bigger and the business gets more complicated. Logan’s dad has also been super, super helpful. We are so lucky to have such supportive families.”

The fact Diva has wound up in the heart of Ponsonby and on her home turf is unsurprising even though I suspect her energy and drive would make things happen no matter where she was.

She is considered by her staff to be the perfect employer. She listens, she shares their values, she is consistent in her messaging, she is loyal and supportive and she doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and digging in.

Business life is about to get more complex for Diva. She and Logan – now just besties – are opening a separate café/deli next door to Beau.

“I think I’ll cope OK. I’ve learned a lot. I know I’ll have to get more professional. I should really get a business card.” beauponsonby.co.nz KERRY TYACK