Home' The Wellingtonian : March 8th 2012 Contents 8 THE WELLINGTONIAN, MARCH 8, 2012
Saturday 17 March and Sunday 18 March
10am -- 4pm last entry to House
part of New Zealand's heritage and history.
College (gold coin donation). No food or drink is allowed in
the House. Security scanning will be operating. Government
House grounds are a smoke-free environ ment. www.gg.govt.nz
open to vie
Ph: 474 0147
Ruth's food, glorious food
talks to food guru Ruth
Pretty about her father's
grocery store, dabbling
in drama and running a
Ruth Pretty: ''I kept thinking, 'What would Martha do?' ''
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
Are you from Wellington?
Yes, I grew up in Karori, went
to Karori Normal School, then
Wellington Girls'. I lived in Wel-
lington till I moved to Te Horo in
my early 30s.
Wasn't your father a grocer?
Yes. He was a grocer in Karori
for many years. When he returned
from the war there was a govern-
ment scheme that helped you set
up a business. Austrian, Hung-
arian and German Jews settled in
the area after the war and
brought their customs, so my
father stocked things like coffee,
gherkins and olives.
It sounds very different to
grocery stores today.
In those days fruit, rice and
flour came in sacks, and would be
weighed out for customers. Bacon
and ham were not vacuum-
packed, but would hang on hooks
at the back of the store.
Did you always enjoy
I did. My three interests as a
child were cooking, acting and
Where did your love of
cooking come from?
I liked cooking with my mother.
I remember when she got a Zip
[electric] fry pan. Once she had
one of those she would make
things like fried rice -- very good
fried rice -- and beef stroganoff.
That must have been in the 1960s.
That's when people started to get
into cuisine that wasn't just
You dabbled in drama.
Drama was my main passion
and in my first year at university
I was in Phillip Mann's class. I
applied to go to the New Zealand
Drama School. It was a one-year
course run by Nola Miller. At the
end of the year we had an assess-
ment. Nola took everyone into her
office one by one. I broke down
and cried because she told me:
You'll never play Lady Macbeth.
You'll find it hard to make a living
in New Zealand, because there are
very few roles for women.''
But you continued acting for
Yes. I had some small parts in
television shows and adverts. I
What did you do next?
A friend who worked in a frock
shop, Memsahib, suggested I
should work there. I loved it. I
found it was very easy to make
people feel happy in clothes.
So why the move into the
I wanted to have my own busi-
ness, so David Jordan and I
opened Marbles in the Kelburn
Villas. We were going really well
but we got a little bored with it
and sold it in 1986. By then I was
married to Paul and we had
bought a place in Te Horo and I
wanted to do something out there.
Hence Ruth Pretty Catering.
Yes. I remember my first cater-
ing job, a cocktail party. I was as
nervous as anything. I swatted up
on Martha Stewart. I kept think-
ing, What would Martha do?'. It
went well, people had fun and
people who went to that event
asked me to do their event.
What were those early days
The local health inspector was
very accommodating and didn't
shut me down, though I was using
my own kitchen. He asked me for
the next 12 months. That forced
me to think about things and
that's when I decided to build a
You've catered overseas
events, too, haven't you?
Oh yes. No long after we started
the business we catered in
Germany for the New Zealand
stand at a food fair. We've been
there three times now. In the
early 1990s I catered a dinner at
Veuve Clicquot [champagne
house] in France.
How did you swing that?
The people in New Zealand who
were importing Veuve Clicquot
sent us to do the dinner.
Where else have you been?
We did something in Cologne
for the Food and Beverage Council
of New Zealand. In 2005 we had
staff in Japan working at the New
Zealand exhibit at the World
In Valencia we had staff in 2006
and 2007 working for the New
Zealand America's Cup team, and
in 2010 we were in Beijing for the
You've been all over the
world, but have stayed near
Wellington. What do you like
It's like a lovely big village.
We're really lucky in Wellington.
We have quality restaurants and
best of worlds: the Kapiti Coast
and Wellington city.
What ingredients should
people always have in their
Rice is a must. Also onions, salt,
olive oil -- preferably extra virgin --
balsamic vinegar, parmesan
cheese, tinned tomatoes.
If you have tinned tomatoes you
can make just about anything.
What about vege gardens?
You don't have to have a big
property to have a vege garden. As
long as it's big enough for
silverbeet or rainbow chard.
Are people more knowledge-
able about food these days?
Oh yes. With the advent of
MasterChef people have gained so
much more knowledge. On
MasterChef they don't always
make the simplest things, so
people have learned through
We're also lucky with the qual-
ity of our supermarkets.
They stock a good array of
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