DOUGLAS Street in the heart of the city is a slice of old Cork that is undergoing something of a renaissance.
The narrow street, lined with houses, shops and traditional pubs, is also home to the recently revived Nano Nagle Place, the original site of the first Presentation School founded by Nano Nagle, who championed social inclusion and access for all to education.
A pop up extravaganza in October for Taste Jazz saw people flood through its doors for a series of dining events, which took place in its strikingly modern Garden Café — a space many people didn’t even know existed.
Shortly after came the announcement of sustainable food venture, Good Day Deli, opening up a permanent café in that same space.
We spoke to the duo behind the exciting venture. Kristin Makirere, a Cook Island Maori with roots in New Zealand, grew up with a deep understanding and respect for the connectedness of people, land and food. While Clare Condon, raised on the Model Farm Road in Cork where her parents grew much of their own vegetables, spent her academic life understanding the power of economics and its global industrial effect on people and the planet.
They met in Cork in 2009 and eventually moved to New Zealand, returning in 2015 with a desire to share what they had learned.
Several months after their opening, Kristin and Clare talk to me about Good Day Deli and why it is more than a menu in a beautiful setting.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR GOOD DAY DELI COME FROM?
“The ethos for Good Day Deli came from our belief in ethical, sustainable food production and conscious consumerism.” says Clare.
What it takes to get food on a plate has become complicated so choosing to eat ethically, sustainably and consciously requires extra effort. Their solution? They do all the work for us: the research and sourcing ingredients so their customers can enjoy the unburdened pleasure of eating.
Their mission is “conscious consumerism” and the message is “if we can do it, so can you.”
“Living in New Zealand, it was inspiring to see people treat conscious consumerism as a way of life,” says Clare. “It is harder having to think more about your choices and not just snap buying, and as a food consumer we have to look harder to find the ethical food, to make better decisions and be informed. We want to encourage people to think like that more.”
Kristin’s love of hospitality spurred on his vision of Good Day Deli.
“I enjoy interactions with people and had always wanted to work for myself. In New Zealand there’s a real café culture, people are out for brunch all day, all weekend long and we really enjoy that lifestyle. People go out for a morning breakfast meeting, incorporating that bit of lifestyle into the working day. We like to encourage that here too: people come in for informal meetings over breakfast before heading off to the office, but it makes the working day that much nicer.”
FINDING NANO NAGLE PLACE
“We came back to Ireland to set up a café in the city and eventually heard about Nano Nagle Place,” says Kristin.
“As soon as we walked up the steps and saw the building sitting here, I recognised it as the kind of building typical in New Zealand: open plan, indoor/outdoor living. I felt a calmness and serenity in this space and just thought it was perfect.
“All the things that Nano Nagle was known for: teaching about social inclusion, the environment, learning, were just totally aligned with our vision and we could see so much potential with the space.”
Working alongside Kristin and Clare are a team that is 11-strong. Charlotte Lordan, a Cork native, is their head chef, and their barista Moses Allem hails from Brazil — an exceptional coffee producing nation. Both are, as Clare notes, “Totally committed to what we are doing. We couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
There’s a real sense that hearts and minds are on fire at Good Day Deli.
Kristin says: “We feel as though we have a message to communicate, and the café is our vehicle to do that: to encourage people to make changes like not eating meat one day a week, or choosing to be a more conscious consumer. Those are changes in direction that are sustainable and can encourage others to do the same.
“There isn’t any meat served here, but there is fish and dairy,” says Clare. “We don’t actively promote ourselves as vegetarian, but we want to show people that you can have a really delicious and filling meal without meat on the menu.
“We want to make it easier for people who have made a specific food choice to know that here the food is authentic and convenient. People’s values are supported and there’s no second-guessing to be done: we have done the hard work for our customers so they can simply enjoy a good plate of food.”
A SHIFT TO SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND EATING
“People are becoming concerned about the environmental impacts of consumerism, but there’s still a lot of work to be done moving towards a more sustainable attitude to food.
“It stresses me out to see something in a supermarket that’s organic but covered in plastic, or local but not organic. There are all these different decisions to make and it’s not easy.
“Food choices are one of the ways in which we as individuals can take responsibility for the future of our planet,” says Clare.
“Food is an easy place to start because we need it every day.”
Mana Tiaki is the Maori concept of guardianship. Kristin explains why this is important in Maori culture.
“Your wealth is in your standing and what you are able to provide. If you can’t provide anything for visitors or your family then where is your wealth?
“In Cook Island Maori culture you are of the land and so everything you do is connected to the land. If I were introducing myself formally to someone that I didn’t know, I would say ‘This is my mountain, this is my river and that’s what connects me to this part of the land.’ So if my river is a poor river that cannot provide food that’s a really shameful reflection of me, my people and also my ancestors.
“I am a guardian: I never own the land but it is my responsibility to look after it and hand it over to the next generation. When you have that mindset it’s not a selfish one because you’re always thinking about others, guiding and directing your actions.”
‘Starting the Conversation’ workshops, talks and seminars on anything that piques Kristin and Clare’s interest are all in the pipeline — just as soon as they can catch their breath! The space has been buzzing and full of happy diners since the day it threw open the doors; diners discovering this hidden gem tucked away inside the walls of the old convent.
For more see www.gooddaydeli.ie
This Friday, May 18, as part of the series, we talk to the head chef Decky Walsh, whose signature and slow food is causing a stir at the new retro arcade on the Mardyke, Barcadia.