CREATING memorably good food is a mix of artistry and craft – that’s a view the expert caterer now taking up an opportunity at Manfeild firmly shares with the cuisine ace who has decided to leave the facility’s kitchen.
Karen Rusling, whose parents ran a bakery and whose Feilding-based KR’s café and catering has risen to become a celebrated and award-winning regional business, has been named as the exclusive corporate caterer for Manfeild, thus replacing one of the country’s leading culinary experts, Hester Guy, who has chosen a quieter life.
Mrs Rusling is excited about starting a whole new food adventure at a Feilding facility she knows well through familial motorsport association: She is a past secretary of a racing series while her father and a brother have both competed.
“I guess I have been involved with Manfeild for the past 20 or so years, and this will be a whole new challenge.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to cater for the many events and clientele at Manfeild. I’ve always been intrigued with how it operates and am keen to show what we can do.”
A first job on leaving school at mum and dad’s Thurra Bread Bakery was the start of a life in food.
“We’ve had 30 years in the food industry. We bought KR’s nine years ago and, while it’s best known as a large café, it’s also a catering business that has serviced big functions and to the corporate market.”
Ms Guy says the role has thrown up fun and drama.
“My biggest dinner was for 900 guests. For one dinner we had to prepare 100kg of fillet steak, perfectly cooked for a discerning audience.”
During one New Zealand Grand Prix she was caught, a hefty food-laden plate in each hand, in a mass of hundreds of motorcycles threading onto the circuit.
“Manfeild is very unique in what it offers, and not just for the region.
“One of the things I found most rewarding was when people from all around the country and beyond enthused about how great the catering was. Being told ‘this is as good, if not better, than we would get at home’ always made me feel we had achieved the brief.”
Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane says the changeover is a mix of excitement and sadness.
“We’re delighted, of course, that Karen and her husband, Tony, have come to join our team – KR’s is one of Feilding’s great success stories and this involvement allows many more people to experience their special flavour away from the café environment.
“At the same token, it will take some time to get used to not seeing Hester here. Manfeild is all about providing the highest quality experience, and that ethos definitely carried through to the levels of service and fare that Hester and her team made available.”
Ms Guy came to Manfeild with 28 years of extensive experience – she’d worked for embassies, large private functions nationally and internationally, and her own television show, ‘Hester Guy Cooks.’
She said then that Manfeild’s truly multi-functional role conformed neatly with her company credo of providing the same consideration and attention to detail to all kinds of event, no matter what the size or budget.
The exclusive outdoor catering contract continues with another Manawatu-based mobile canteen provider, Gala Caterers. Owned and operated by Dean Gerbes, Gala is well known for its expertise in providing a wide variety of food for all tastes and budgets.
“We’ve been at Manfeild for more 30 years and we’re really delighted to continue and build upon that association. We’re now looking at new options and new lines to ensure we stay in tune with their evolving needs.
“I’m also looking forwarding to working with Karen, to lift the Manfeild experience.”
Photo: Never too many cooks …. Manfeild events manager Jordyn Tate, centre, with incoming corporate caterer Karen Rusling and Hester Guy, right, who has held the role for the past 10 years.