How did you feel when you found out you had won your award?
My staff and I were absolutely delighted.
Do you think the hospitality industry has changed much since you started? If so, how?
Yes – I think people are looking for fresh, healthy food to satisfy all dietary requirements.
Who is the Sweet Vanilla Kitchen customer?
Business people looking for a quick bite through to ladies who lunch. Also families brunching at the weekends.
When deciding on a décor for your café, what was most important to you?
Renovating and keeping it within the original character and the front counter and food cabinet.
Tell us about your menu.
I decide the menu and it changes each season [to take advantage of] the variety of produce available seasonally.
What is your food philosophy?
Simple, fresh, creative cuisine.
Is there one dish that is particularly popular with customers?
People love our energiser bowl and halloumi dish but all our food is popular.
What are your plans for Sweet Vanilla Kitchen?
I look to improve and I research all the time.
What has winning Classic Kiwi meant for you?
The prestige and recognition for all our hard work.
What’s the best part of your day?
The best part is lunchtime when we are insanely busy.
What do you find most satisfying about working in the business?
Its satisfying to see all the cabinet food that is made daily disappear. It’s also satisfying to see all our customers enjoying our food.
What do you think are the essential elements to creating a successful café?
Creative ideas, fresh food, friendly service, being consistent and having fantastic baked goodies.
49 Pretoria St, Lower Hutt
See the full list of NZ Café of the Year Award 2016 winners at nzcafeoftheyear.co.nz.