A new Palmerston North food cart is all about taking a simple but beloved food to the next level.
Simply Kai specialises in frybread served with a range of fillings and toppings. Customers can choose from plain or classic golden-syrup-filled frybread, to chicken sandwiches, to bacon and egg butties. Anyone wanting a sweet treat can grab a frybread donut filled with cream and a choice of jam, passionfruit, or caramel sauce.
Simply Kai opened in mid-October and already has a number of regular customers. The most popular order is the baker's dozen — 13 pieces of frybread for $20.00.
Owner Michelle Te Maro says she loves making frybread because it is relatively simple, but she can get creative with what she puts on it.
"Food has become very costly, but frybread is cheap to make, so I just want to take that to the next level," says Te Maro.
Simply Kai also runs Friday specials, which alternate between paua pockets — fry bread stuffed with creamed paua — and seafood chowder.
While living in Invercargill a few years ago, Te Maro started selling her frybread at the local markets. She found that she enjoyed it much more than her full-time job and eventually sold enough frybread to buy a caravan to operate out of.
"I felt I was onto something, but I needed to hone my skills and be more professional with what I'm doing," says Te Maro.
Te Maro went on to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Cookery Levels 3 and 4 at the Southern Institute of Technology Te Pūkenga, and the New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Advanced) at UCOL Te Pūkenga after she moved to Palmerston North.
While studying at UCOL Te Pūkenga, Te Maro started planning to buy a new food caravan and open a business in Palmerston North. She also completed Māori Women's Development Inc.'s HineBoss programme to help her develop a business plan.
"I learned so much at UCOL that has helped me launch my business — things like how to design a menu, how to register a food business, how to be a boss and take charge in a kitchen, and how to be creative with food. The street food module helped a lot."
"The tutors at UCOL were great and the atmosphere was awesome. You go in there like a rough diamond and they polish you up so you're sparkly when you come out at the end."
On top of operating the food caravan, Te Maro has developed a dry ingredient product so people can make their own frybread. She aims to sell it as part of a gift pack with fillings and a recipe e-book she has written.
Te Maro says the best thing about running her own food cart is the freedom she has.
"It has its challenges, but the biggest payoff for me is that I changed my profession to do something I really love."
Simply Kai is based at Te Marae o Hine – The Square from Wednesday to Friday each week and the Albert Street Famers' Market on Saturday mornings.
You can follow Simply Kai on Instagram @simplykai22.