Can you live in paradise and have a career too? Yes!
Finding a career in a small rural beach community can be a real challenge, but not so for the team at Flatwhite. Once a small beach town café, nowadays Flatwhite is something altogether different. After major renovations in 2015, Flatwhite has become synonymous with beachfront dining. It’s been quite an adventure for the Flatwhite family (as they call themselves), with each year bringing new challenges and further refinements.
Finding the right person for the job is difficult for all businesses and is a particularly “gristly” one for the Flatwhite. The smaller pool of people available locally meant that they needed to get creative when it came to employment. With the arrival of Head Chef (now General Manager) Demian Dunlop, and the success the business was seeing, the Flatwhite was able to take on education programmes for existing and new staff.
In 2016 Flatwhite took on 16 year old Damian Donn as a dishwasher. Being no stranger to Flatwhite, ‘Damo’ took to the kitchen like a duck to water. His mother Cathy had been the Flatwhite bakery chef since 2007 and Damo had been tagging along with her since he was 6 years old. Damo made great progress as a dishwasher and two years later was offered the chance to begin a 3-year chef apprenticeship. He will complete his study in 6 months.
Then came Ari
In 2016, Flatwhite took on a new dishwasher, Arihia, known as Ari, a young woman originally from Wellington who had moved to Waihi to live with her mother Hinewai. Hinewai has been another rock-solid member of the kitchen crew for many years, and with a mum like that, the Flatwhite team knew they’d found a gem in Ari. Like Damo, after working as a dishwasher for two years, Ari was offered an apprenticeship as a chef in 2018. She jumped on this opportunity and is now in her second year of apprenticeship. Ari says “It’s been an opportunity of a life time for me. I’m very comfortable at Flatwhite, they’re like a family to me.”
“Being able to offer education towards a lifelong career for Damo and Ari has been huge for me personally, and an unexpected career highlight” says Andy Kennedy, owner of Flatwhite. “We are very proud of Damo and his progress, and Ari, who came to us as a shy twenty-year-old and has really blossomed; she has so much potential. I believe in them both and look forward to seeing what they do with their careers”.
The Flatwhite is now the largest employer at Waihi Beach, with 35 permanent staff year round and up to 60 staff in the peak season.