No such thing as easy money

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
Ruth Pretty
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ

RUTH PRETTY: 'The best investment decision I ever made was when I first started that restaurant.'

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In the capital Ruth Pretty is regarded as the queen of catering but her future career at one stage hinged on a loan that was guaranteed by her father.

When she left school, Pretty set her sights on the theatre and was one of the early students at the New Zealand Drama School.

However, with acting jobs in scarce supply, she turned to her natural flair in the kitchen and started a restaurant, Marbles. It was a success, which meant a relieved Pretty could repay relatives who lent her the deposit and assure her father he was off the hook.

Today, Pretty is an author and runs a well-known catering business and cooking school in Te Horo, on the Kapiti Coast.

What was your first job?

My father owned a grocery shop, and so from an early age I helped in the shop. It taught me that you work, you get money. I remember wanting something once and my mother said something like, do you realise how many weeks you would have to work at the shop in order to buy whatever it was. Early on, I could relate what you had to earn to what you could pay.

What did your upbringing teach you about money?

As a kid, I saved my money. I also liked having stalls, like lemonade stands, selling things to make money. My parents were brought up during the Depression and World War II, so their attitude to money was quite different to attitudes now. That, in some ways, brushes off on me. You don't like wasting things. And you see the value of money a lot more.

When did you move into business?

I didn't go into a business-oriented job at first. I was interested in theatre and I wanted to be an actress. I ended up in a clothing shop . . . and there I realised that's what I really liked doing. I liked commerce. I liked selling. And I liked feeling that I was getting paid regularly, which of course you don't get as an actress! It was from there that I went to owning a restaurant.

You didn't train as a chef?

No, I didn't but it was my hobby. To be successful as a chef, you need two parts: the organised part to you but you also need a creative part. And what I've done takes on the creative part, and I suppose I was really organised without knowing it.

Schools aren't streamed now but everything was streamed then and if you were in a top stream, you were not encouraged to go anywhere near cooking. It was not an option. But now I think career advisers would maybe more be a bit more open. [My business partner] hadn't been involved in cooking previously either. It was his hobby too. You could get away with a lot more in a restaurant than you can now!

If a child asked you the best way to make money, what would you say?

Get a job. I think jobs for kids or teenagers are so important, not only do they learn the value of money, they learn social skills too.

What's the biggest lie people are routinely told about money?

The biggest lie is that you can make it easily. That's why people gamble. I never even buy a Lotto ticket. I think I've bought probably two Lotto tickets in the last 10 years . . . because it seems like such a waste of money.

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What was the best investment decision you've made?

The best investment decision I ever made was when I first started that restaurant. Actually taking the risk, although it wasn't me taking the risk in some ways, it was my father guaranteeing the loan. In those days you didn't need a big deposit or a big loan.

And the worst?

Loaning anybody money. You very seldom get it back. And I shouldn't say that because I was loaned money, but I did give it back.

How do you feel about spending?

My feelings towards spending might be different to a lot of people. I hate junk and I'd rather buy one really good thing than a whole lot of crappy things. I put quality ahead of cheapness.

- Sunday Star Times

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