Kāpiti – A Portrait Through Food

Once upon a time, Kāpiti Coast was something of an epicurean desert. If you wanted a decent coffee or a meal that didn’t come with a drive through and fries then you had to head into Wellington.

But over the past few decades, talented chefs, producers and discerning foodies started moving into the area. The result is a plethora of restaurants and cafes to rival anywhere in New Zealand.

But while industrious local hospitality folk were grafting away at their respective trades, feeding and watering locals and visitors, no-one was really capturing their backstories and why they do what they do.

Enter Joanna Piatek. The photographer had long dreamed about telling the story of Kāpiti eateries in a book with beautiful photography and recipes.

The result is Kāpiti – A Portrait Through Food, a 125-page love letter to Kāpiti’s booming food and drink scene.

While the idea had been percolating for some time, it took a year’s hard work to bring the book to fruition.

“I’ve always wanted to do a book, to leave something behind,” she says. “I’ve also always been fascinated with food and about why people in the hospitality trade do what they do – ie what’s their why? Why do they get out of bed in the morning, why are they motivated to feed us delicious food,  why do they make what they make?”

Her big break came when she met Australian publisher Michelle Lovi, of Odyssey Books, who recently moved to the Kāpiti Coast.

“I was able to do the photography and pull together the book but Michelle had the editing skills I didn’t. So we decided to make the book happen together.”

Joanna contacted around 45 local eateries and 25 expressed interest in being involved. Most of them wrote their own stories which Michelle edited. All the supplied recipes had to be tested and Joanna spent three months photographing each eatery, their food and staff.

Eateries featured include Paraparaumu Beach’s 50/50 Restaurant, The Raumati Social Club and Te Horo’s Bus Stop Cafe, as well as producers such as KoaKoa Limoncello and Dark Horse Coffee. Providers such as Mike King’s foraging business, Finders Eaters, and Kapiti Island Nature Tours are also included.

“It’s about telling the story of Kāpiti through these locals using a food lens.”

Although the book was only published in December 2019, so far close to 1000 copies have sold.

Joanna says they’ve going mainly to locals who send them to family and friends all over the world as well as to accommodation providers and real estate agents who give them to new buyers.

“We’re thrilled with how they’ve sold. There was obviously a need for this kind of book and people are loving it.”

It’s a long way from Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, where Joanna was born and raised. She arrived in New Zealand in 1987, intending to backpack around New Zealand for a few months; 30 or so years later, she’s still here.

“I was working in Wellington when I met the father of my daughter (now 29) and so decided to stay in New Zealand which I had fallen in love with.”

Although the relationship didn’t last, Joanna raised her daughter on her own, for 10 years in Wellington, then in Paekakariki. Work in sales and commercial real estate followed, including working with property tycoons such as Sir Bob Jones and the Chow Brothers.

One thing never wavered though – Joanna’s love and flair for photography. When she hit 40 and suffered what she calls a career crisis, she turned to her camera and eventually setting up a studio at Lindale to do mainly portraits and corporate work with a few weddings thrown in for good measure.

With her partner broadcaster Corran Crispe, she also purchased the Beach FM radio station in 2011 and the pair ran it until last year when Corran retired from radio. 

So what’s next for this enterprising Kāpiti resident? Following the success of her first book, she’s currently working on another book. Although she will say its again focused on Kāpiti, the popular photographer isn’t keen to reveal too many details just yet.

She’s also busy working on a new photographic website with her son-in law which is due to launch next month. “It’s a Kiwi-specific stock library, kind of like New Zealand’s own Shutterstock style agency with specifically Kiwi people and imagery.” 

And then there’s the offers from both contacts in both Horowhenua and the Wairarapa to produce a similar food book in those regions.

“It’s a great way to capture the essence of a region’s food and drink and the people who work so hard behind the scenes,” says Joanna.


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