Volunteers at the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa national waka ama sprint champs at Lake Karāpiro work hard for long hours but are always assured of a decent feed thanks to the tireless work of Hone Mutu and his team.
For 12 years Hone has been feeding the volunteers and VIPs at the event, which attracts thousands of paddlers and tens of thousands of fans every year.
After starting out as a volunteer, Hone decided he and his team of whānau and friends could make a better contribution by making sure the volunteers were well fed.
“We thought the best way we could help was to ensure they have a good breakfast in the morning and a beautiful dinner at night and so we’ve stuck to that principal,” he says.
On the menu this year has been a range of dishes including beef Wellington, lasagne, scotch fillet, glazed ham, roast pork, lamb racks and, of course, hangi.
Hone – who lives at Waimate North – says the event is a good time for his whānau to catch up with each other and they come from around the country to help out at Karāpiro.
Catering for crowds is something his whānau is used to, he says.
It was a whānau decision to take on the catering contract 12 years ago and there was never any intention of making money out of it.
“If we wanted to make money we’d be having mince and whatever else every night, that sort of food, but we choose not to go down that path and instead to give them the best quality that we possibly could,” he says.
“Our thing has always been manaaki and so all the kai that we have in the VIP area, we don’t charge for. We supply the VIPs their morning teas and lunch so that’s our koha to Tainui because they’re looking after all the VIPs down there. I’ve never charged for that or for the pōwhiri kai because I’m not happy to charge for what is a tikanga thing, that’s our koha back to Waka Ama.”
His crew feed more than 70 people each morning and evening during the week and he says it’s something they love doing.
“I guess that’s our passion, me manaaki te tangata ahakoa ko wai no hea, me tika te tiaki i a ratou. For all the work that they do the least we can do is provide them a nice kai and we hope that we provide that.