Crepes are a blank canvas, you can do anything with them. So, Leslynne Jackson and her team at Petals Café have created sweet and savoury works of art on crepe canvases, beautifully presented on delicate China plates, served with your choice of coffee, fragrant tea, or wine if you prefer.
Tucked away, almost secretly, there are two rooms upstairs with comfy Victorian settees that make one feel like a Queen having high tea. And that's just what Leslynne wants, for people to feel like they're being treated, to great service and fresh seasonal, local produce. With Covid and cyclones, Gisborne has been hard hit. Lives, homes and businesses have been lost. It's easy to give in to that feeling of defeat, but as Leslynne says, we all want a vibrant community. Somehow we have to hold this paradise of ours together and find solutions.
We so often travel out of town to get that city fix, but we need to remind ourselves that we don't actually need to leave town for great food and wine experiences. We really do have it all here on our doorstep.
Petals Café has been Leslynne’s way of connecting more with her own whānau. She and her husband Hamish owned the Brunton Road Winery for 10 years and loved it. But with their daughter living so far in the opposite direction, up in Kaiaua, it was a long way to travel in between visits. So Leslynne and Hamish sold the vineyard, and moved into town to start a new family business. They haven’t given up on producing their own wine however and Petals rosè, chardonnay and merlot are all served up at Petals Café. ‘Petal’ is Leslynne’s daughter Sarah's nickname.
Between being a mum and farm life, Sarah takes care of Petals Café’s web design and social media. You can follow Petals on Facebook and Instagram. Leslynne works at Petals part time, as the “general dog’s body” she says, as she sings her staff’s praises. Kerry Ellis and Ella Chrisp Nichols are the chefs, and Jerome Haenga and Stewart Lloyd the baristas. Son, Dylan works as the kitchenhand after schoold, and I even saw Hamish on vacuuming duty when I went in for my second round of pancakes. (I couldn’t try the savoury without following with the sweet, of course!)
Leslynne gets huge enjoyment in witnessing the joy and connection between friends and family in the café. It's a nice escape from her 9 to 5 job as the programme lead at Manaaki Tairāwhiti. Having worked in the social sector for 30 years, in both government and community, Leslynne notes that Petals Café is just another form of community caring. It's all manaaki really…
Manaaki Tairāwhiti is a collective governance group who look for opportunities to improve social outcomes. This is unique to Te Tairāwhiti as an Iwi-led, place based initiative. While it's not easy to summarise the Manaaki Tairāwhiti kaupapa nor the impact they have on our community into a paragraph, the purpose behind their mahi is to enable all whānau to flourish.
Their approach to doing this is to find the barriers in systems and then pass that on to the relevant local leaders and funders in order to improve those services. To change systems is often to reduce bureaucracy and helping whānau navigate complex systems to get what they need. Leslynne credits Ron Nepe, Moira Brown and Judy Campbell for enabling her team to do what they do.
Having worked with the team myself in a previous life, I can tell you first-hand that what they are doing is incredible, often thankless and unseen.
In these last days of another big year in Te Tairāwhiti, we want to say Kia ora to the wider team at Manaaki Tairāwhiti, and you, Leslynne who do so much in our community.
I highly recommend you gather your friends, your whānau, and head down to Petals Café for some crepes, a delicious drink, and a good helping of manaaki.
Story by Aimee Vickers
Photographs by Tom Teutenberg