The mayor turned up, and so did three of the All Blacks Sevens team.
Fletch, Vaughan and Megan – three breakfast radio jocks – also made an appearance, as did a couple of Weekend Sun reporters along with mums, dads, uncles, aunts and assorted hangers-on.
The Greenpark School pop-up restaurant, Ngaru, also attracted national television exposure, with Seven Sharp’s Tim Wilson dropping in from Auckland to check out the food. That night he was able to tell several hundred thousand viewers that Greenpark School’s week-long restaurant was very good. Very, very good.
“They were probably expecting beans on toast,” says Ben Brock, the teacher in charge of the kids’ beach excursion fundraiser, “but it was much more sophisticated than beans.”
What the punters got was an entrée of either pulled pork sliders with homemade slaw or rustic vegetable soup with freshly baked bread. A main of either Moroccan vegetable tagine with couscous or chorizo and broccoli pasta in a cheese sauce followed, and dessert was a decadent chocolate brownie with yoghurt or a zesty lemon curd cake with cream cheese icing.
“They were awestruck by the food,” says Ben. “They were shocked by the quality.”
“It was tasty and beautifully presented,” says Weekend Sun staffer Kerry Mitchell. “There were some nice touches, like the edible flower on the dessert.”
Ngaru could have charged a premium for cuteness. That is the kids staffing Ngaru. From Sienna – “that’s Italian you know” – who greeted, smiled and charmed with her big clipboard, to waiting staff Drake and Haley, who brought ‘adorable’ to the menu.
The national profile and publicity created by the kids’ restaurant has gone down extremely well schoolwide.
“With the teachers’ strike, there’s a lot of negative publicity about the education system and teaching,” says Ben.
“So it’s nice to have something positive out there about our school, so that it’s not all doom and gloom in the education sector and that some things are working well and we are doing it right.”
Not all right, all of the time though. “The pasta dish was a bit suspect on Monday and Tuesday,” he says. “Wednesday pretty good and Thursday and Friday – perfect!”
Lessons learned? “Well there’s an old saying about never working with children and animals.
“I don’t know a whole lot about working with animals, but working with children is not as hard as people think.
“There’s no way I would open a restaurant. It is too much hard work. Teaching is easy money compared with a restaurant.”
Ngaru turned over more than $3000 during the week-long operation, and made a net profit of $2800. That’s means 150 kids from Greenpark School will be getting a very Kiwi experience – surfing lessons at the end of the term.
“Even though we live very close to the water, we have many kids who’ve never been to the beach and many more who’ve never been surfing,” says Ben.
The trip would normally cost $25, but now all parents will have to stump up is just $5 for the bus.
And there will be another restaurant next year. “We have still got places to go with this. I want to introduce technology, where kids are ordering things on iPads directly to the kitchen.”
But a few local celebs won’t cut it next year. “We’re going to ask Jacinda Ardern,” says Ben. She was running a country and couldn’t make it this year, so an early invitation is going out next year.
The teacher also wants to give a “shout-out” to some Greenpark colleagues: Michelle Clarkin, an amazing baker responsible for the lemon curd cake, Cath Thompson, who worked very hard to ensure the main courses were cultural, tasty and healthy, Paul Sutherland, the breadmaker, and Kyla Boyle and Jo Gilpin with their art skills.