As part of the Chronicle's summer series, we went hunting for the region's iconic dishes; menu items which are world famous in Whanganui, unique to the area, or just a bit different. Laurel Stowell kicks off the series at Butcharts' Home Cookery where the luncheon roll has been served for well over half a century.

It's a hefty lunch offering made in much the same way since 1947 - and it includes Cameron Butchart's homemade mayonnaise.

The luncheon roll sold at Butcharts' Home Cookery hasn't changed much since Ian and Viviene Butchart set up business after Ian's return from World War II.

Son Donald stuck with the business - despite another offer - and grandson Cameron runs it now.

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Starting at 5am daily he's making the pastry and bread rolls the little shop in Tawa St sells six days a week. His pies have been judged in New Zealand's top 10 18 times.

Every day enough bread is baked for 70 rolls filled with ham, beef, pork, luncheon or chicken.

They sell for $4.80 and $5 and make a substantial lunch.

The ingredients of a luncheon roll are always the same. First the fresh bread roll, then butter, chow chow pickle, grated cheese, two slices of luncheon sausage off a large roll, lettuce, a piece of tomato in the middle and beetroot either side.

The finishing touch is a mayonnaise made on the premises.

The recipe is a secret that a lot of people would like to know.

The rolls include mayo made to a secret recipe.
The rolls include mayo made to a secret recipe.

People try to pry it out of Butchart when he has had a couple of drinks - but he's not telling.

It's an important ingredient in the rolls and sandwiches at the shop, and another version is also added to the Butcharts mega pie, which contains mince, cheese, bacon and mayonnaise.

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Butchart got the mayonnaise idea when he spent a year in Scotland.

There, he said mayonnaise is even an icecream flavour.

Cameron Butchart has been helping out in the home cookery since the age of 7 or 8.
For the past 15 years he has run it, with two hardworking staff who he appreciates.

The business used to open seven days a week, but for the past two years everyone has had Sundays off. Otherwise the only days they don't bake are statutory holidays, and the weeks around Christmas.

Butchart is still dreaming up new recipes. After his time in Scotland, he's wondering about a haggis pie. He says he likes feeding people.

"We make people's lives better in a simple way, because they're happy eating our product."

Going to the little shop on the corner of Kings and Tawa streets is like stepping back 50 years into the past.

But Butchart says customers are advising him not to change and the business is going better than ever.