What a wonderful sense of adventure and freedom I felt growing up in Auckland back in the day. Our nuclear family consisted of two solo mums and six kids living at the end of a cul-de-sac in Onehunga.
Money was tight. Mum spent evenings bartering piano playing and baked goods for the ballet teacher, in exchange for ballet lessons for me, while holding down a full-time job during the day. She wanted to ensure my brother and I had the same opportunities as the children up the tracks from us.
Our gang of local kids spent afternoons into evenings roaming the streets. Sometimes we got up to mischief, jumping construction site fences or running through the Mangere overpass tunnel. Mainly it was about good clean exploits of kids having fun; going for a dip in the neighbours' pool or climbing trees to fetch loquats.
Weird and wonderful smells filled the various kitchens of our Austrian, Indonesian and Pasifika neighbours. Pastry for strudels rolled so thin as to cover a dining room table. Yoghurt incubating in the airing cupboard. Savoury semolina breakfasts. This was where my love for food began.
There were challenges growing up. Like when I started up in the big city school of Epsom Girls - I was out of zone and didn't know anyone and, coming from a home where money was tight, mufti days were always hard. Or working through university at high-profile Parnell and Ponsonby restaurants. Serving journos, actors and ad men was intimidating for a girl from the burbs. But I learnt that people were people and if you treated them with warmth and hospitality then, for the most part, barriers seemed to disappear and you would open yourself to new ideas and experiences; your world would become a richer place.
My Auckland now is very different. Days are spent bringing up our 3-year-old son Osgar and working at one of our three eateries in Britomart and Ponsonby. But there are still hills to climb, parks to roam and pools to jump into.
I'm still inspired and humbled by the people I meet from different backgrounds. We have staff from more than 16 nationalities working with us at our restaurants. They are often the ones holding down two jobs with the same entrepreneurial energy my mum had when I was growing up. There are wisdoms in other cultures that are not immediately apparent in ours. And I continue to develop a deeper appreciation for the extraordinary importance food plays for other people.
I do fear rapid change and poorly managed growth may increase tensions and distrust between different groups in Auckland; a bigger Auckland may become a more hardened, less human place.
But I still believe that through warmth and hospitality barriers can disappear. And I hope that by building meaningful connections between people that greater diversity will mean our city can become an even more rich, layered and interesting place.
Five favourite places
Auckland Zoo - revisiting my childhood
Great Barrier Island - for when you really want to get away from the city
Auckland Domain for a walk with my son Osgar and the dogs
Grey Lynn Park - the paddling pool for Osgar and for doggie mayhem
Waiheke for oysters and bubbles
Krishna Botica is restaurateur of saan, Cafe Hanoi and XUXU Dumpling Bar.