When celebrity chef Simon Gault walked up to the Kiwi Taste food truck at the Miranda Holiday Park, the first thing Max Panirau noticed was his sunburn.
“I didn’t know if I should get some aloe vera or pat him on the back,” he told The Profile on Friday.
“But I’m glad I didn’t recognise him, because that would have put the pressure on.”
Two days earlier, the New Zealand chef and restaurateur took to Facebook to praise Kiwi Taste’s blue cod as being “the best in town”.
The video has since racked up nearly 20,000 views.
“It’s the best kept secret,” Mr Gault said. “It’s the best blue cod in town, well, the whole of the North Island really.”
Kiwi Taste was set up by mum and son team Rhonda and Max Panirau in February last year.
Their ethos was good food served with a side of banter, but their hospitality extended far beyond dishing up plates of fish and chips.
They built their food truck by hand and on Friday, it was missing a microwave, as the pair lent it to a couple staying at the park who required something to heat up their baby’s bottle.
They’ve also been generous to travellers, and have helped guests with ailments, and answered their questions.
“That’s just what we do,” Rhonda said.
The pair “couldn’t believe it” when they saw Mr Gault’s review about their blue cod.
The fish is delivered to the pair from their supplier in the South Island. The batter is Rhonda’s own recipe.
“I might cook all the fish, but it’s got to go past Max,” she said.
“And Max does not have a problem with saying to me: ‘No, sort that batter out mum’.”
The pair make an excellent team.
“Mum keeps me in check too. She’s said to me a couple of times: ‘That burger doesn’t look like the picture’,” Max added.
Max makes the salads too, which were also raved about by Mr Gault. Last week’s menu included a couscous salad with grated beet, carrot, broccoli stalks, almonds, currants and a home-made orange vinaigrette.
They’ve even done a course with The Chip Group, to “upgrade” their skill set.
“There’s a lot more science to fish and chips than people may realise,” Max said.
There was a secret when it came to making the “best blue cod in town”, but Rhonda said a piece of simple advice was to not overcook the fish.
The truck is open at the holiday park between 6pm-7.30pm Tuesdays-Sundays, and the pair said they were grateful for support following the challenging Covid-19 lockdown.
“When Covid happened, we were freaking out, but I said to Max: ‘We’re not ostriches, we don’t stick our head in the sand, we are Kiwis. Let’s get up and make another go of this’,” Rhonda said.
“I’m so proud of my son, because he’s stuck it out, and he’s put 110 per cent effort into it.”
By KELLEY TANTAU
PHOTO: Mother-and-son duo Rhonda and Max Panirau have been given the accolade of having the “best blue cod in town” by celeb chef Simon Gault.