Scarecrow café co-founder Ben Barton isn't just interested in where his food is sourced from or how it's prepared in the kitchen. He also cares about what happens to the food when it leaves the premises.
So interested in fact that the 35-year-old executive chef studied how the nutritional value of food outlasts its commercial value as part of his BComm honours degree, which included a dissertation on "the economics of yesterday's bread". In short, Barton is fascinated by leftovers and surplus food or, as he puts it, "perishable food industry management".
Scarecrow's partnership of Barton with husband-and-wife team Alison and Paul Dyson was a match made in foodie heaven when the "kitchen, florist, grocer " was launched as a pop-up store in Auckland's Victoria St East 18 months ago.
The Dysons wanted to create an ethical and sustainable food business in the city, showcasing fresh local produce and artisan goods, and Barton shared a similar philosophy.
The success of the pop-up store encouraged the Scarecrow team to undertake an extensive refit, including a full kitchen, while they traded in temporary premises beneath the Metropolis Building in High St. Six months ago they re-opened, seven days a week - offering dinner five nights a week.
For Alison Dyson, Scarecrow is a perfect solution for inner-city dwellers. Her years spent bringing up a family in Paris made her realise that a large city is not an "anonymous place".
"A big city is a whole lot of villages joined together. You always shop in the same street or the same market. And people get to know you."
When The Dysons moved into an Auckland city apartment in 2014, they wanted to create that community feel for other inner-city dwellers - a place where people could have a bagel on the way to work, meet friends for lunch or dinner, and buy fresh bread, eggs, vegetables, flowers or olive oil on their way home.
To make that concept work, Scarecrow receives regular organic market deliveries, selling food both as prepared menu items in the café or as fresh goods to customers. The cafés fish arrives daily from Leigh Fisheries, caught by long-liners and cheeses are made locally.
The grocer store, says Barton, includes those ingredients "hidden away in dry stores and walk-in fridges".
"If you like something on the menu you can buy all the raw ingredients to recreate it yourself and we will give you the recipe as well," he says.
Diners sit surrounded by shelves of tempting goods like nut butters, honey, relish and chutneys, cereals (including Paleo, raw and gluten-free), Forage + Bloom tea blends, chocolates and oils.
Next up are plans to expand the range of take-home meals on offer - in compostable packaging.
In fact, part of Scarecrow's sustainable aspect involves compost. Three times a week Steve Rickerby from We Compost collects three, 80-litre bins of food scraps and left-overs to make compost which in turn will help to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers in the future.
"It finishes the cycle basically," says Barton. "None of our organic waste goes into landfill."
Scarecrow , 33 Victoria St east, Auckland.
Sunday-Monday, 7am-5pm;Tuesday-Saturday, 7am-10pm. Phone 09 377 1333.
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