Former NBL basketball champ Lydon Aoake hopes his latest venture will prove to be a slam dunk.
The Clinton resident and former 2018 championship-winning Southland Sharks guard will be testing his appetite-busting Ooga Burgers on a southern public for the first time in Balclutha next week, after a series of successful pop-ups in the North Island.
Inspired by a visit to the United States last summer to launch what he hopes may become a chain of premium, hand-crafted burger outlets, Aoake said he had spent the past year refining his recipes.
"There's a few burger joints out there, so you need to stand out.
"We scoured Texas for the best burgers last summer, and locally we've had help from Re-Burger, family and friends, and have tested our recipes in two pop-ups in Auckland, then Whangamata, and the public feedback's been great.
"We've developed our own special, creamy, tangy sauce and craft every burger to perfection before it leaves the kitchen, so we're pretty confident we've got a winner."
He said the branding was a play on time-honoured caveman cry, "ooga-booga", as his burgers were "good, meaty, real food" that would satisfy "prehistoric" appetites.
"We say, 'man created fire, then man created burgers'.
"It's about getting your fingers covered in sauce and licking them off 'cause it tastes so good."
Aoake said there was plenty of room for a burger outlet in South Otago.
"It's got good cafes and restaurants, but we saw a niche for fantastic burgers between Dunedin and Invercargill, and wanted the great Clutha public to be the first South Islanders to get to try out Ooga Burger."
The pop-up shop — which would run initially until April — was located in the former Thai Kai premises, in the Balclutha Arcade in Clyde St.
Aoake would be behind the grill — and each and every burger.
"I've done a few start-ups, but not in hospitality before this; but I know what a good burger looks, smells and tastes like."
He said he hoped to expand the brand to further outlets as revenue allowed.
"We think we have a great story and a strong brand, backed up of course by top-notch burgers and our special sauce. So that's the goal."
In the meantime, his recipes had already found their biggest fan, in the shape of four-year-old son, LJ.
"He says it all the time: Ooga Burger, Ooga Burger. It gets stuck in your head."
The business will have a private opening on Sunday night, and will open to the public on Wednesday.
Photos indicate Ooga Burgers may be some distance from a Heart Foundation tick.
A promotion on its Facebook page reads, "Yeah, I am into fitness ... fitness this whole thing in my mouth."