International flavour a winner

EMMA BAILEY
Last updated 16:09 12/11/2012
franz lieber
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
BAKER: Franz Lieber of the Fairlie Bakehouse.

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How did the Fairlie Bakehouse come about?

My stepson, Chris Taylor, found the place and we started it up three years ago. I had been working for the Mackenzie Corporation, which has hotels and restaurants in Omarama, Tekapo and Twizel. I was working over 100 hours a week and thought if I was working those sort of hours I may as well be doing them for myself.

Where did you become a chef?

In Austria. Austria is known for its hospitality. The training was tough. Long hours for low pay, but it made you very disciplined.

Why did you come to New Zealand?

I was working as a chef in Rotterdam, and I worked with someone who had worked here. It made me want to come. I kept applying for jobs and eventually got a job as a chef at the Hermitage in 1979. I loved the area.

Where else have you worked?

All over the place, Te Anau, Tongariro, Waitangi. We owned a lodge in Nelson and I was also an executive chef at the Chateau on the Park in Christchurch. In 1990 I started a bakery in Arrowtown that is still going now. I was probably a bit young then to persevere.

What are the main differences between working in Austria and working in New Zealand?

Attitude and work ethic. New Zealand is a lot more laid back; I like that to some degree which is why I have stayed. When I started my own business I had to go back to the good habits I had learned.

How many hours do you work?

Start at 2am to 5.30pm, six days a week. When we first started Chris and I didn't have a day off for nine months. I'm in bed by 7.30pm, I don't really have a work-life balance. I don't really do anything else except a bit of gardening and have two pet calves. I like working, my family think I am a workaholic, I don't really have a social life but do waffle on to the customers though. I don't really think about the hours; working 16 hours a day feels no different to working eight hours.

My wife is Australian, I met her in Wellington. She has been pretty understanding and put up with me working long hours, so has my daughter.

Have you enjoyed living in Fairlie? We already had a holiday house here so we quite enjoy it. My mother-in-law has even moved here.

What have been the challenges?

The biggest challenge was the bank but they are OK now. When we started it was during the financial crisis.

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What have been the highlights?

Winning the people's choice award at the Business Excellence Awards.

Where to from here?

We want to get into wholesaling. We are building a factory to make gourmet pies which we will sell all over the place.

FACTS ABOUT FRANZ

Name: Franz Lieber Age? 56

Where did you grow up? In Austria, near where Arnold Schwarzenegger comes from.

What is your favourite food? I am quite easygoing when I go out for a meal; I really like fresh fish.

What is your favourite song? I don't listen to music. When I trained you weren't allowed music in the kitchen and I just got used to it.

What are you proudest of? Keeping my health, I am a little bit health-conscious. I don't drink because I have seen so many drunken chefs and seen what alcohol does to them. I think that is why I still have so much energy.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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