Kiwi whips up a storm in New York
With a hurricane warning in place, former Southlander Mark Simmons' new Kiwiana restaurant in Brooklyn, New York had no spare tables after being open for just a week.
Mr Simmons, whose family had a small sheep farm in Invercargill, left school at 16 to work at the Makarewa meatworks.
Quite content, he thought he would spend the rest of his life at the works. However, the temptation to travel led to him cruising around Australia in an old Ford Cortina "that surprisingly didn't break down", washing dishes in hotels, cafes, resorts and restaurants.
However, he could not cook.
The best he could do was fry eggs and heat up baked beans.
However, after thousands of washed dishes, a chef demanded he learn to cook after he relentlessly asked for recipes and instructions.
"He gave me the opportunity and I never looked back ... I definitely was curious and interested and that led to being passionate about it." he said.
From there, he worked his way up the kitchen ladder, travelling to Japan and finally New York where he has spent the past seven years.
"Being a chef is a great way to see the world," he said.
Landing a spot on American TV show Top Chef was a great experience for the young cook, and opened several doors.
"It confirmed my passion to one day open my own restaurant," he said.
Realising that dream, Mr Simmons – preferring to do everything from scratch – moved into an old, gutted building and, "swapped my pans and knives for hammers and sandpaper", and got to work building his dream kitchen.
However, on his first day open, the walk-in refrigerator blew up and a staff member walked out.
However, the determined Southlander carried on and replicated his grandmother's dining room, decking out his restaurant in true Kiwi style, with tables built from New Zealand pine, old Air New Zealand and Four Square posters on the wall, and New Zealand wine and beer.
Customers can enjoy Dave Dobbyn and other Kiwi music, while eating from the New Zealand-style menu, which includes smoked and pickled green-lipped mussels, baby back pork ribs braised with Marmite and manuka honey, pavlova, and hokey pokey, which fly off the shelves.
With a multicultural staff, Mr Simmons had to learn to speak Spanish, and also hired his younger brother to meet and greet customers.
"To open a restaurant in New York city is a huge challenge; most here fail very quickly," he said.
"I'm knocking on New Zealand pine that won't be the case."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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