With Christmas just around the corner you'll be wanting to finalise the last few things on your 'to-do' list, so it's very timely for us to be chatting with Kate King, owner of Gourmet Direct.
Let's talk turkey, Kate. What are your Christmas offerings, and when do people need to order?
Ideally you would have ordered yesterday! But there's still time, so get in quick. If it's turkey you're after, we cater for all sizes of gathering - from whole birds to just breasts/tenderloins, and all free-range. Then there are hams. People crawl over cut-glass for our hams, they are legendary! Free-range NZ pork, low nitrate, super low water content, and a lovely, traditional cure.
You live on a farm, are any of these animals from your own farm?
No, the scale of our business and its dependency on consistent quality is such that producing it all ourselves wouldn't be the most efficient way of doing it. We have long-standing relationships with various meat suppliers... and our quality is so consistent it's spooky.
What sets you apart from other butchers?
We've been in the game for a very long time, and we have an extraordinary knowledge of meat. We stick to traditional channels, and use strong self-control when sourcing products. We only supply what we always supply to our customers; if something is unavailable, we will tell them it's unavailable rather than using inferior product.
Why did you choose Remuera to set up shop?
I grew up in Vicky Ave, and my father always said "start somewhere familiar". The majority of our business is online sales, but we noticed we had a strong customer base in the eastern suburbs. It was a great decision, as Remuera foodies tend to shop locally.
Do you have any other stores?
We have a retail shop in the Hawkes Bay (which is where our farm is) and that's also our "mother-ship" where all our national orders are picked and packed.
How long have you been in operation?
Gourmet Direct has been around for 27 years, and I've owned it for 11. It's actually the oldest online food merchant in the country.
Can locals still order online, or is it just the physical shop?
Absolutely. They can also now 'click and collect', which is becoming very popular. Especially with free 10-minute parks on Remuera Road, people can order from home then run in to pick it up, it's all ready for them.
Is it unusual for a female to be involved in the butchery industry?
It is, but then I'm not really a 'girly girl'. There are more female butchers now though. I have in the past been asked if 'the manager is available'. I walk out the back then return to the shop and say "here I am!"
Is your husband, Perry, part of the business?
We call him the Sausage Scientist! He's responsible for our outstanding range of hand crafted sausages. He's been a farmer for over 25 years and he's a competent butcher. I couldn't do any of this without him.
How about your kids, do they show an interest?
They - and their friends - showed an interest every time school holidays rolled around, and they got paid very well for it! Now they have loftier ideals. One is a pharmacist, the other an engineer. We do always hire local students each Christmas, they're wonderful. Hard-working, intelligent... it's a great start for them. They have to work hard and we always learn something from them too.
What's your favourite meat recipe?
Well you can't beat a Sunday roast. Or anything that is to do with 'food with family'. Food should be memorable.
Do you think people eat less meat these days?
Yes, people are more conscious of the fact they have to balance their diet, and they're becoming more discerning. Interestingly though there is a trend towards the lesser cuts. If those cuts come from good quality animals, there's a lot you can do with them!
How about organic meat, is that popular?
We do an organic chicken line but organic beef and lamb can be very overpriced, for what it is. And unfortunately there's actually not a lot of control in the industry. People should be aware, too, that organic on its own doesn't mean free-range. I find that mainstream general NZ production measures are fine though. As farmers, meat producers are already as 'clean' as they can be, which includes animal welfare etc; the whole package.
When you're not here in Auckland, who runs the shop?
I have a wonderful new young butcher, Anthony, who manages the shop. But I often say my customers run it! They always ring me and let me know what's going on. I find I don't need to use consultants for this very reason. I have a 6,000-odd customer database who are happy to let me know what's right or wrong!
What do you do in your spare time?
I've finally built my dream kitchen, so I spend a fair bit of time cooking. I have a massive culinary library to pore through! We also like to get to the beach house at Ohope when time permits.
And finally, do you have any future plans for Gourmet Direct?
It's a really competitive market, so we're always looking to the future. The food industry is constantly changing. We are very aware of our role in the industry and the fact that every new start-up looks to copy us. Consumers aren't silly though. We have a strong brand and a long history of delivering quality. Foodies are now more comfortable with having perishables delivered, which is great for us. I see growth in our future but not on a massive scale, as then you start compromising quality.
392 Remuera Road
Ph: 09 520 2639 www.gourmetdirect.com
Photos by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson.