He’s one of our favourite foodies, the quintessential Kiwi bloke who just happens to be able to whip up some pretty sumptuous tucker in between fishing trips.
Metropol catches up with Al Brown about his sweet tooth and the winning recipe for a great establishment.
Where did your passion for food come from?
Look I’m not really sure. My mother was a pretty bog standard cook, however growing up on a farm we always ate very well. The protein that anchored our diet was sheep meat… lamb, hogget, mutton and all the delicious offal that accompanied the prime cuts. We always had a decent sized vegetable garden, so grew most of the greens and tubers that we consumed.
Personally, like many kids, it was baking that got me interested in the joys of cooking and eating. Born with a very active sweet tooth and with no dairy down the road, I soon realised it was a DIY situation if I was to satisfy those sugar cravings. However once I grew up and left school, it was fairly apparent when I set off on my OE, that it was hospitality and becoming proficient in kitchens that were my early career goals.
Why do you think the country has connected with you and what you do?
I guess people connect with me in a way that they sort of see themselves embracing or singing off the same song sheet that I do. Authenticity, informality and nostalgia play a big role in what I believe in or attempt to portray. I genuinely feel a huge sense of pride in being able to call New Zealand home. Like so many others, I don’t think the significance of this can be underestimated. We are all just so darn lucky.
You’ve been busy with the Garden to Table programme, how important is this to you and why did you choose to become involved?
From the first visit of a decile 2 school that had incorporated the Garden To Table programme into their curriculum, they had me. It’s an extraordinary programme on so many levels and I feel fortunate to be involved in a small way. Connecting the dots and understanding the full circle of food, is incredibly powerful. To plant, to grow, to harvest, to prepare, to cook then to share the spoils around a table is simply priceless. Learning in a non traditional setting often gives the kids that struggle in the classroom environment an opportunity to shine. Self esteem and personal worth are other attributes from the programme that also help empower the children.
What is the winning recipe for a great dining establishment?
The offering (food and beverage) has to always be on point, however personally I believe the real reason that an establishment is successful, as often is the case in any business, is that it comes down to the people. Creating a fun-filled culture with hard working values, kindness and generosity of spirit at its core, is what it is all about. Great staff attract great customers.
How does a day in the life of Al Brown look these days?
• 6:30am walk ‘Sir Ed’ my Jack Russel for
• Two slices of toasted Vogels with tomato, sea salt and cracked pepper along with a mug of instant Red Ribbon Roast to start the day
• Staff catch-up
• Writing menus for various events
• Best Ugly Bagel business
• Tennis lesson or a hit every second or third afternoon
• Write speech for impending speaking engagement
• 6:30pm work the floor for a couple of hours at Depot or Fed Deli
• Hopefully home by 9pm for family time, before hitting the hay.
What’s the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?
I really enjoy the collaboration aspect of what I do. If you surround yourself with a bunch of clever folk that bring different skill sets to the table, you can achieve a hell of a lot. Also winning with a bunch of like minded people is a lot more fun than winning by yourself.
What does the next 12 months have in store for you?
Plenty of interesting events dotted throughout the calender. I’ll continue to work on and support Depot and The Federal Deli, while we are also opening two more Best Ugly Bagel outlets. Besides that and with a bit of luck, I will be aiming to squeeze in as many days fishing as possible!