Every Monday at Pāpāmoa's iconic Bluebiyou restaurant, a team of locals comes together for a "pay-as-you-feel" dining experience like no other.
The Everybody Eats initiative began in Auckland. The idea is to take food destined for the rubbish bin and turn it into a restaurant-quality meal to feed people suffering from food poverty.
The Pāpāmoa operation is led by Shar McElligott, who owns Nourished Eatery in Tauranga's CBD, but spends every Monday helping others.
"Good Neighbour rescues all the wasted food from the supermarkets," she said. "I go and collect that food and drive it to Bluebiyou in Pāpāmoa, unpack it all into the restaurant and then we design a three-course menu."
With the food unpacked, the pressure is on to design, prepare and cook a restaurant-quality meal before service begins at 6pm.
"We only have half an hour to an hour to come up with the meals," Everybody Eats Pāpāmoa resident chef Brett Lesniak said.
"A lot of the time we can get similar vegetables because it's that season or the supermarket got a huge batch of one thing so we keep getting the same thing.
"It's hard to try and mix it up and try to come up with new and fresh ideas for people so they're not coming in and having the same thing every week."
Volunteers start arriving from 12pm and quickly get to work on the prep list.
"The whole day is just solving problems," Lesniak said.
"We have no time to trial out the menu as you would if we did this as a restaurant. It's just as we go, we've got to sort out ... 'ah yes, we can throw this into what we're doing here'.
"We've also come across speed bumps like getting frozen meats when we didn't have the time to defrost it."
For Bluebiyou co-owner Matt Schaeffer, handing the keys over to his restaurant one day a week was an easy decision to make.
"We're from this area, we moved back down a few years ago and bought this restaurant. I'd already worked with Everybody Eats so the idea was already there," he said.
"But what sat true here was that this restaurant's located on a reserve and to give it up one day a week for anybody to come and experience the views and location, who wouldn't come on the business days.
"We thought that was a great way to give back to the community that we're benefiting from."
For volunteer Teringamau Tane, it's the restaurant's setting that appeals.
"The first time I volunteered, a couple of mothers came in who had probably never been out for a meal like this. I treated them like royalty and it gave them a dining experience that they'd never had."
As service time draws near, a line begins to form outside. All that's left to do is plate up and serve.
"A lot of these people, some of them wouldn't have a meal without Everybody Eats tonight," Lesniak said. "To sit around with the rest of your community, in one spot where class doesn't play a factor in where you're sitting or what you're eating. Everybody's having the same meal and enjoying it just the same."
Everybody Eats takes place at Bluebiyou in Pāpāmoa every Monday night, except public holidays.
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