Nick Pike says there's a nice back-story to his fascination with bao buns. He chats to Mark Story ahead of the opening of his new Hastings eatery, Funbuns.

Bao buns and cocktails are an odd mix, are they not?
While on a holiday to Taiwan I discovered the bao bun in a street market, fell in love and chased them all the way back to Hong Kong where I was living at the time. In Hong Kong I found a restaurant serving the buns along with great beers and cocktails. It was a revelation. Both being so fresh and aromatic it just seems to work.

What's the bao bun history?
Bao being "bun" in Mandarin firmly sets its roots in China, however, the gua bao we are selling comes from Taiwan. It was explained to me on the streets of Taiwan how the street hawkers managed to minimise space used and would have buns and fillings all separate and compile them to order. This meant they could sell steamed buns of multiple flavours and do all of that on the back of a trolley or at a very small stand rather than having a massive steaming cabinet. This is how it was explained to me and I love the story so I hope it's true.

What's your culinary background?
I started off my career in hospitality at the ripe age of 17 at Diva working for Kent Baddeley. From there I did a stint as a baker where I decided to move to France to continue and learn from the best. I then moved to London to pursue a slight change in career and make desserts in some of the best restaurants in the world. This change ended up taking me all over the world. I have been in kitchens in New York, all over the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. Since coming home I spent the past year and a half working for James Beck at Bistronomy which enabled me to get this business lined up.


What's the biggest obstacle to opening your own business in the Bay?
I have been part of the core crew opening two separate restaurants, one in London and one in Hong Kong. The struggles over there were very real. We had language and cultural divides whereas over here there is really a community feel. I seem to have a dream team of people who helped me set everything up. The only real struggle I have had was finding a building that ticked all of the boxes.

Who's your favourite Hawke's Bay chef?
I struggle with this one because I have two - James Beck and Kent Baddeley. I have worked for both of them in very major phases of my career, Kent when I was very green to the profession and James as I was just trying to find where I fit in and he allowed me to keep being creative and have a great time.