Satomi’s smiling face on Sunday mornings, selling a Japanese version of omelette and cute cheesecakes, belies her adventurous spirit.
What bought you to New Zealand?
Fire poi. I knew that there was group of people doing fire poi here and I wanted to experience a different culture.
Okay – that’s different! How did you learn fire poi and what is it?
Fire poi is like poi but with flaming balls being swung around on chains. Back in 2004, I went on a working holiday to Australia and my flatmate taught me fire poi.
Was your flatmate Māori?
No – Japanese. Despite being called fire poi, not many Māori practice it.
I heard that you met your husband, Ryo, through fire poi?
Yes, I was performing fire poi in Britomart and a Japanese digeridoo player introduced Ryo to me. Ryo is also a chef who does fire poi.
What were you doing in Japan before you came to New Zealand?
I’ve been a chef since I was 19. I’ve worked in all kinds of places as a chef – an Italian restaurant, a bar, a café. I always like trying something different.
Did you work as a chef when you came to New Zealand?
Yes - I worked as a chef, starting at ACG college then moving on to work at Renkon.
When did you start your market business?
In April 2019. I noticed that most of the Japanese food sold in New Zealand is teriyaki chicken and ramen noodles but I have never seen anyone selling Omurice.
What is Omurice?
It is omelette on a bed of flavoured rice with sauce over it. It is a very popular thing for Japanese people to make at home. Often Japanese people add a lot of ketchup to the rice but I have adapted it to suit Kiwi tastes.
[Ed. I guess that is why Japanese people eat more eggs per person than anywhere else in the world.]
What do you like about being at the market?
I like having the flexibility to try my own recipes and I like seeing customers’ reactions. I can see straight away what people think.
What has been surprising?
At one market, it suddenly got very windy. My gazebo nearly blew away so lots of people came running to hold it down. Then it started hailing and we all got covered in hailstones! Thanks everyone, for helping.
How did you come to call your business “Ulysses Kitchen”?
It was my stage name in Japan. It’s from when I was living in Cairns. They have a large beautiful butterfly there – the Ulysses butterfly. It’s considered to be good luck if you see it - and I did.
As published in Ponsonby News : September 2019