James Smith, aka The Tattooed Butcher and NZ's Butcher of the Year, on the best of Pukekohe
My home town is Pukekohe (south of Auckland). I grew up here, did my apprenticeship here and currently live 10 minutes south in Tuakau - technically across the Auckland/Waikato border, so I get the best of both worlds. I love living here - it's close to the city without living the "city life"; It's almost like a breath of fresh air down here when you spend a lot of time in the city.
If I have a bit of downtime, I love to head to the Pukekohe Race Track. It's a very active track, holding the V8 supercars annually. I have my own street/track car that I take down to events.
If you're keen to get a bit of fresh air, there are some awesome walking tracks out in the Waiuku Forest that I quite often go out to. They aren't really well marked out, but you can get some good walking access to the tracks along Cliff Rad. If you aren't keen to walk, you can just drive out here and head up to the lookout for great views.
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The great thing about Pukekohe is our proximity to lots of adventure. We are so close to the Waikato River which is the perfect spot to go wakeboarding. There are great drives, such as to the Manukau Heads Lighthouse, the views from here are unreal. If you feel like more of a drive, Port Waikato is a stunning bit of coastline that I would hedge a bet most Aucklanders haven't seen.
If you're after a coffee or a quick bite to eat, I have a lot of respect for the guys at Columbus Mitre10. This is an area that is all about community spirit and they are constantly putting on fundraisers or doing something to give back to some really great causes. I just did a fundraising event with them and all the money raised went to Cure Kids.
I'm a big fan of low & slow BBQ - Blue Ox Babe is a must-visit and the brisket is on point. I think it's really cool being able to take meat and put so much time and care into cooking something over fire and smoke.
I trained at Pukekohe PakNSave, started competition butchery six months into my apprenticeship and have never looked back since. It's taken me to some amazing places around the world, winning multiple titles, becoming a member of the NZ Sharp Blacks (our national butchery team) and also taking out the NZ Butcher of the Year last year. Even after all that excitement, my heart still finds its way back to Pukekohe, so if you haven't already, come check it out.
The Auckland Food Show is on at the Auckland Showgrounds today. For more information go to foodshow.co.nz