Established 2009 in Nelson Reni created the niche business Kiwi Kai which grew to become popular for local’s tourists and organisations looking to sample Indigenous Kai.
Gargiulo said growing up her father – a former rock lobster fisher – had her on a steady diet of crays, cockles, eel and fish heads, and it was this kind of fresh Maori food that she wanted other people to enjoy. I adapted the cooking methods and recipes a little to entice other people’s taste buds and Kiwi Kai developed from there.
A few awards and years later Reni sold Kiwi Kai intellectual property which included the seafood lines & recipes, branding, app, domain name, naming rights etc and her signature dish ‘marinated raw fish’ to a Rotorua company.
All is not lost – Reni now owns the Nelson branch of Kiwi Kai situated in Halifax Street, a little hub of activity with hangi, fry breads, raw fish and an array of other goodies including the Kiwi Kai Steam Pudding available 6 days a week. “All of our kai has a strong Maori influence – you won’t find it in a bakery,” she said.
Streamlining the business with Kiwi Kai Rotorua was next on the list and now both shops are working together toward a bigger picture. Rotorua make the famous Steam Pudding and Rewena breads which are flown in whilst their staff have been meticulously trained by Reni in her Seafood lines. Supporting our local industry and ensuring quality Seafood lines in the North Island was another important step with Reni’s suppliers now supplying the Rotorua branch.
This has been such a great move for my business as Rotorua introduces the Nth Island with Steam Pudding now available in Countdown, New World, Pak n Save, Mad Butcher s (Nth Island) we are patiently waiting to supply the Sth Island from our little whare in Halifax Street. That project alone is quite big for us in Nelson…..hahaha so I am happy for it to take its time while I get my head around everything else.
The Kiwi Kai shop does have some deli items like fresh rolls, wholesome sandwiches, chia compotes, fruit muffins, GF/DF options which will be extended shortly with products from our Kai Fusionz range. Two new cabinets are expected to arrive in the coming weeks for this.
The Kai Fusionz korero
Never one to sit back and ride a wave there was still an urge to grow and develop recipes however this wasn’t possible under the new Kiwi Kai system so Kai Fusionz was born January 2018. Kai Fusionz now creates all the ‘new’ recipes and is our catering arm – basically our creative side and is available through the shop and wholesale orders.
Even more so we follow the simple principals that Kiwi Kai was founded under – kaitiakitanga
“Kaitiakitanga is very natural for Maori and is at the forefront of my business. Care is taken to only use the best sustainable products available to us.
“We always use fresh ingredients and are very particular when buying fruit and vegetables. Right from day one I had decided minimal ingredients, no added preservatives, colours or additives.”
Kai Fusionz has its first wholesale order going out beginning of March with Hangi pies for Millennium Hotels. Hangi pies were not part of the Kiwi Kai IP sale so I am very pleased and grateful the ink ran out when signing the dotted line.
This week we made a fresh batch of Crayfish pies which were for sale at Kiwi Kai Nelson, no sooner had we put the sign on the street and a whanau group visiting from Brisbane rolled in and bought half….with a few left in the cabinet and a couple of online orders these sold out quickly.
Whilst we may make extravagant kai we also give to our community. Both businesses support whanau in need – which is anyone, we are very lucky to have a local Lawyer that gives a monthly donation toward kai that we koha – it makes it easier on us literally we can give double. On a couple of occasions, we have used this putea to make complete meals for families. There is a real need to support our community, if you have an apple tree and wish to drop off a bag they will go to a deserving table. This week we are happy to koha 50 fry breads to Victory Boxing – Paul Hampton does an amazing job with young people and we (Lawyer incl) wish to support them whole heartedly. So when you purchase through our shop you are also part of this koha vine.