Luck and fortitude have proved essential ingredients in Shaun Burgess' recipe for success.
Burgess moved to Nelson last year for a job at a local bar and cafe, but was then laid off when business slowed, and has now set up his own business making specialty cheesecakes after a chance meeting with a Nelson College teacher.
Nelson Gourmet Cheesecakes has been set up with help from Nelson College teacher in charge of economics Richard Bell and year 12 business studies students Patrick Hewson, Jamie O'Meagher and Lawrence Williams.
The gourmet products, developed with a portion of Burgess' invalid's benefit that he uses to buy ingredients, are being made to order for a growing number of clients.
They are made in the Founders Heritage Park community kitchen, which Burgess leases for a few hours each week.
Nelson supermarket Fresh Choice is keen to sell the cheesecakes, pending the required audits. The supermarket's dairy/freezer manager Dean Wastney said Burgess brought in one of his cheesecakes for the staff to try and it was "particularly good" and "far superior" to anything mass produced.
Burgess said the secret was in the emphasis he placed on the cream, cream cheese and sour cream fillings and the thin biscuit base.
A feature of the gourmet desserts was the range of flavours from black forest to cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, peaches and cream, white chocolate and apricot swirl. He is exploring options using snap-frozen berryfruit from Nelson firm Sujon to further enhance the quality of the product.
Burgess grew up on the West Coast and trained as a chef at Hokitika's Cafe de Paris. He has managed epilepsy most of his life, notably over the past 20 years.
"It's why my cooking's been a bit on and off in that time," he said.
He moved to Nelson last year to take up a job at 623 restaurant in Tahunanui. He now works a few hours each week cooking on Friday nights at the Nelson North Country Club.
While living in Franklyn Village he met Bell who had contacts there, and who saw the potential in the cheesecake business.
"I said it was a good idea and it could be helped off the ground by using business studies students," Bell said.
The Nelson College students plan to develop a marketing plan around the desserts, with the aim of supplying them to caterers, delis and cafes.
Burgess said his passion for cheesecake was driven by his sweet tooth.
"I love desserts, full stop."
The 45-year-old was also keen to set up in business as he was tired of working for others, and he "really believed in the product".
He was seeking financial assistance from Work and Income to invest in developing the business, and has "done more business studies workshops than made cheesecakes".
"I need help with set-up costs as I'm using my benefit to help buy ingredients.
"I know this will succeed because it's all heart."
Burgess said he had his eye on premises in central Nelson he hoped to be operating from within six months, and within five years he aimed to have a second shop in Blenheim.
Do you feel better off than at this time last year?