Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Meet the People - 13
Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – Michael Venner (iwi:Ngapuhi; hapu: Ngati Toki/Mangakahia), was brought up at Pakotai between Whangarei and Dargaville in heartland Ngapuhi country before his family moved to Auckland to live. Now 38, Michael (above right) is the owner of the very successful Coppers Cafe, which he opened three years ago at Northland’s Coopers Beach and now runs with his younger brother, Gerard, 30 (above left). Michael began cooking at 14 and was classically trained as a chef in the early 1980s. After working in Queenstown for five years, he traveled abroad and spent the next twelve years in England, where he studied for a degree in social anthropology and tourism management. When he returned to New Zealand, Michael fell back on his strong Maori cultural background and was drawn to his Northland homeland.
“The Far North has always been a hidden gem. It’s one of the most under-developed areas in terms of tourism, yet there is a wealth of interesting and talented people up here,” he says. Keen to be part of the area’s development potential, Michael set up Coopers Café with the intention of providing contemporary international cuisine – “doing simple food well.” He’s also keen to develop and encourage tourism and employment opportunities in the small holiday town of 3,000 people. “Lots of people are coming back into the Doubtless Bay region for all sorts of reasons and during the summer months, the Coopers Beach population swells to around 20,000. As a business, we want to become a leader in the region’s tourism and hospitality industry and hopefully offer our experience to others. Being Maori is a very big part of who we are and I’m encouraged by the fact that many Maori are now realizing their assets and self-worth and are finding their place at the table. www.cooperscafe.co.nz