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Rust Kitchen & Eatery

When Nelson’s favourite French couple, Greg and Mylene Auphan, sold Rustic Cuisine on Rutherford St Ian and Pam White picked up the baton. They renamed the café Rust Kitchen & Eatery and have added their flair to the offerings we were all familiar with at the old Rustic Cuisine.

Ian told me they have kept the ever-popular galettes and other dishes but have added their twist by making different flavours to enhance the choices customers have. They have also added a few different dishes to the menu too.

However, the essence of the business remains, it is still a delightful little café making great food served efficiently and with a smile.

Ian and Pam White at Rust Kitchen and Eatery in Rutherford St, Nelson

Ian and Pam bring a lot of experience to this little café and when I visited last week they told me about their background in the hospitality sector and how they ended up owning Rust. Ian says “we didn’t come to Nelson to buy the business we came here to be in Nelson. We moved from Mt Maunganui where we had a very busy ice cream and dessert café, we’re loving not having to drive for 40 minutes each way to work and then working 12 hours seven days a week.”

The couple have worked together for more than 40 years. Having met through the Home Farm Trust in Oxfordshire where they were involved in a project that was about helping young people learn skills for life, “we were involved in a café project to teach people various aspects of daily work and the customer service and kitchen skills they will need to work properly in the café environment.”

Pam is a qualified chef and Ian has a customer-facing sales and marketing background with a focus on business development. Taking an existing hospitality business and growing it has been a focus of their self-employed working life over the last 40 years as they moved from a little general store with an off-licence that was their first business together to owning a fine dining restaurant on the Isle of Wight at the Cowes Sailing Club all the way to Nelson via the ice cream and dessert business.

Ian told me they have been involved in the food sector their entire lives, “we lived in Australia for four years where my role was helping companies export food products from Australia to the UK, we also helped equipment manufacturers advise chefs on kitchen layout and equipment they would need to run efficiently.”

After moving back to the UK in 2000 they spent 14 years developing and running a large events and corporate catering business. “We did everything from weddings to corporate lunches and ran corporate cafes within large office buildings, including for places like a business centre and a biotech park.

The couple first visited New Zealand as tourists in 1996 and had “a hankering to move to New Zealand since then. We came over as often as we could on holiday with our family. In 2009 our daughter who is a nurse moved to Tauranga and we really wanted to migrate here too, but it was a bit difficult for us at the time. We still needed to work and getting the right visa was a challenge. When our daughter became a New Zealand citizen we were able to come here on the parent visa.”

The couple’s first business in New Zealand was Polar Dessert, an ice cream and specialist dessert bar in Mt Maunganui. “It was just selling soft-serve ice cream and yoghurt at that time, but we could see the potential the business had. Mt Maunganui is a natural market for ice cream and we knew we could grow it significantly by adding other things to the menu.

“It ended up being a tiger by the tail situation” he says with a smile. “We grew it to the stage it became a destination café that was open 7 days, 10am ‘til 10pm and it just got to the stage after 9 years it was too much for us. It’s been taken on by a young couple with lots of energy, they are doing well.”

Having sold that business Ian and Pam wanted to move away from the very busy Mt Maunganui and Tauranga area, they had been to Nelson many times and “fell in love with the region and the Nelson vibe” so chose this as their place to live.

They found Rustic Cuisine was for sale and flew down here to have a look at it, when they looked at the core café business “we saw that as a way to underpin our vision, it gave us a great base to expand and grow from. To help meet or future needs we invested in some new ovens and other equipment to give us more capacity to make different foods and expand on a great range of freshly prepared frozen meals.

Rust barista Pablo Salas works with Havana Super Deluxe Coffee, which includes beans to take home and can be ground to order. He also owns the La Planta coffee cart

They made a couple of immediate changes when they took over the business, the coffee is now Havana Super Deluxe Coffee, which includes beans for you to take home and can be ground to order. They employed the very experienced barista, Pablo Salas who also owns the Le Planta coffee cart. “He works for us during the week and runs his cart at markets and events at the weekends.”

The couple have also started opening at 7.30am so people can stop in a grab a great coffee on the way to work.

They are still making the popular frozen meals Greg & Mylene sold but they intend to increase the range. “The goal is to add more high quality, interesting meals that are ideal to be reheated at home or work and are designed to appeal to a wide audience of people looking for something of chef quality, made with good local ingredients, and at an affordable price point.”

A new head chef has joined the team to help with all aspects of menu and product development which includes house-made, sourdough bagels that will be on the menu in the next couple of weeks. These will be baked fresh every morning and we also intend to have them fresh and frozen for you and me to take home too.

“We want to take baby steps while we continue to invest in the future, the small size of the café area means that to grow the business we need to focus on the takeaway side, be it coffee to go, fresh bagels, tasty sweet treats or frozen meals. And we can do free local delivery too for anyone who can’t get to us.”

The changes made so far seem to be popular, whenever I have dropped in Rust Kitchen and Eatery it has been a hive of activity and I predict it won’t be long before Ian and Pam have another tiger by the tail.

Published in the Nelson Mail 07-02-2024 

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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