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Cooking Up A Storm

- At The French Fig - Monday 20 March

By Pauline Stewart

“We are attempting to create the country’s biggest-ever dinner party, with the hospitality community throughout New Zealand coming together to do good and help those in need,” says New Zealand Chef, Al Brown.He has cooked up a Cyclone Gabrielle relief banquet, hoping to create New Zealand’s “biggest-ever dinner party”. Backed by the Restaurant Association, ‘Cooking up a Storm’ will be hosted in hospitality establishments across the country on Monday, March 20. His vision for menus is about simplicity, focusing on favourites and comfort food to nurture the nation’s soul through its stomachs.

Participating restaurants will serve a two-course “comfort food” menu for a set price of $69, with $46 from every sale going directly to the Mayoral Relief Funds of each of the affected areas. The remaining $23 will cover the restaurant’s costs.

The French Fig in Albert Street, Whitianga has taken up the challenge with the staff at The Fig all donating their time as a way of giving back to the community. “In times like this it is all about the community coming together. We would like to thank Anchor Whitianga and Allpress for their donations for the dinner,” says French Fig owner, Bev Calder.

To reserve a table just go to

The Fig can have 60 seats for now on Monday night, 20 March. “If the weather is fine and that can’t be predicted accurately, then we can cater for more. It’s all about coming together for a family dinner, “ says Bev.

The Fig's Menu - Chicken pot pie or Nana Val’s Beef hot pie with mash, a salad bar and a choice of Tiramisu or Sticky Date pudding and caramel sauce for dessert.

A selection of vineyards has donated wine to be served on the night.

Chef Al Brown added, “I know times are still bloody tough for many in our beloved hospitality industry, but we still need to think about others and the role we play in the community.”

Bev Calder agrees with this sentiment. “We have had quite a difficult situation for six years. Soon after we purchased The Fig, the main street went through an 8 month upgrade, then two and a half years of Covid, and now the road closures. Bev’s attitude is, that we need to work together as a community to get through this. “This is a tough time for cafes, restaurants, tourist operators and indeed all businesses in the area. For me personally,

I want to make sure all my wonderful staff, some of whom have been here for six years, retain their jobs. They are all amazing.

I couldn’t run the business without my staff. We have to try and do our best every day as long as we possibly can. We appreciate the support of all our regulars and tourists passing through.”

Al Brown says “Through Cooking Up A Storm, we’re emulating what is happening in the affected regions, where sitting around a table and having a kai is bringing people together to support, listen and be there for each other.”

Monday 20th doors will open at 6.30 pm and dinner will be served at 7pm

Tables and or places can be booked at: Note: Going to press, over 50 restaurants are taking part with 100 wineries on board.

Caption: Marlie Candelaria with the sign she made to promote the 'Cooking up a Storm' event on Monday, 20 March.


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