The Camp Mum – Cooking with Aroha.
Jennifer Neal, ‘Aroha Catering’ began her career in hospitality in a rather saucy way She was a cabaret artist who travelled around Europe. Back in Aotearoa the show went on even if the stage setting was a bit different. She opened a dairy and started cooking bacon egg pies, caramel slice food for the counter. “I found people coming from all over town to eat my food. Which surprised me as didn’t l know I had a talent for cooking” says Jennifer. After six years in dairy she decided to try catering.
“Early on I got approached by the University of Auckland to do field catering. They were really blown away and immediately gave me all their field catering and I began to develop a bit of following” explains Jennifer. The ’camp mum’ would arrive on site “be part of the team, put food together with real ingredients which fed not just the body but the spirit. Food should trigger a memory, make you feel like your grandparents made you feel, bewarm and nourishing” says Jennifer.
Jenniefer tries to make everything from scratch “I won’t buy ready made sauces but try to cook seasonally and make all my own chutneys, I don’t even use glad wrap.You won’t find a single plastic bowl or pre-made mix in my kitchen. I use only free-range eggs, and mix them with old-fashioned egg beaters” states Jennifer. Her house is planted in fruit trees plus a herb garden and Jennifer likes to go exploring for ingredients. She is a regular face at Coromandel farmers market. “As a result of this process you have a great base of ingredients to elevate the food you’re working with. Take the regular meat platter and add your home grown chutneys “boom you have your X-factor” states Jennifer.
The advantage of being on site is flexibility. Jennifer explains “I can create a menu that suits the season, location, clients budget, or dietary requirements Whether it is a writers retreat, couples retreats, counselling camps, I can customise menus as desired. The aim is to make people feel that they are home and to be approachable”.Jennifer can handle “small army’s or at least groups up to sixty” (bigger if she has staff). The goal of Aroha Catering is to go mobile to cover events around New Zealand (currently she has 22 camps on her book – January is already booked out). Anywhere, any time, Jennifer will bring her special talent to the stage whatever the show, for those wanting the ‘Camp Mum’ touch.