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The series follows Brooklyn Jiang, 12, as he grows up in his parent’s cafe in Thames. Photo: SUPPLIED

Thames ‘cafe boy’ in new doco series

A week of being followed around by a camera crew, sharing an inside look at his life at his parents’ cafe, made Brooklyn Jiang realise that “family always has your back”.
The 12-year-old Thames High School student was part of the creation of a new documentary series called Takeout Kids.
Directed by Julie Zhu, it offers an intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of four young people growing up in their parents’ restaurants and takeaway shops – and the way this impacts their own coming of age.
Spanning the length of Aotearoa and ranging from the introverted to the extroverted, each standalone episode follows the life of a different takeout kid, including Brooklyn, from Sunburst Coffee Lounge in Thames.
Brooklyn’s parents, Lim Heng Yuen and Tola Bo, are originally from Cambodia and have had the cafe on Pollen St since Brooklyn was 10 months old, he said.
He’s grown up in the family business, but told The Profile he preferred the quiet moments in the cafe, when the customers had gone and the doors were closed.
“After the shop closes, we just run around and hang around here,” he said.
“But everyone knows me as ‘The Cafe Boy’.”
Brooklyn has two younger siblings, Katelyn and Kaycee, and speaks highly of his parents, whom he said started from “nothing”.
“Mum had a hard time; she came here as a teenager and had to learn a whole different language. I’m very proud of how [mum and dad] made something from nothing.”
And when asked what he learned from the documentary process and growing up in the Sunburst Coffee Lounge, Brooklyn said: “your family always has your back, no matter what”.
Takeout Kids launched this week, with all four episodes available to view on The Spinoff online.
Director Julie Zhu said the series showed how the kids moved between home and school, at times juggling multiple languages and responsibilities.
“Some of them are close with their parents, some have more distance. Some love working and showing off their professionalism, while others are just waiting for shifts to be over,” she said.
“What excites me about these young people and their stories is the ordinariness of their lives, but the uniqueness and unexpected moments that occur regardless, making the point that everyone’s lives are rich and complex if you dig deep enough to understand.
“On a more subtle level, the series questions the cost to families, very often immigrant families, who work so hard to provide for their children,” she said.
“The kids bear witness to their family’s sacrifices, whether they are conscious or not of this.”