Wāhine Māori-run cafe reopens doors to customers

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Kai Connoisseurs is a small Māori-owned cafe and catering business in Ōtautahi Christchurch. They have only just reopened their doors to customers again, as owner Sachiko Simamoto refused to separate her customers from the vaxed and unvaxed. 

“We just did not want to treat people differently for any reason. So when the mandates were put in place then we made the decision to become a takeaway shop.”

Located in the small town of Aranui, Shimamoto employs mostly solo māmā who all share a passion for kai.

“We are a wāhine crew and, out of the five of us, four of us are solo mums and all of us are Māori. I'm not a chef, I don't have any qualifications but I've spent any spare time I've had in the kitchen and I think it's magic,” says Shimamoto. 

It is not just a cafe, the whare is used for reo wānanga, cooking classes, and other initiatives that aim to bring the community together.

“Often we are only going to meet at the marae if there is a kaupapa or a tangi. It seems to me that we need more of that in our community accessible to whānau, and that is something we want to do more of this year once we get back on our feet.”

Well-known for their dumplings, Shimamoto aspires to be the biggest wholesaler of dumplings and wontons in Australasia.

"We know that by doing that, that will just open up opportunities for so many whānau."