The team at Luke's Kitchen is all about "making pizza not war", but there are other underlying principles at work in this rustic north Coromandel restaurant.
Set by the sea in the village of Kuaotunu, Luke's is well off the beaten track for gourmet food ingredient deliveries. These guys make just about everything themselves and use every bit of the produce in their dishes and grow/forage much of it as well. As much as he loves pizza and cooking for his guests, Luke hates waste.
Luke Reilly is a local lad, growing up in Kuaotunu, just 17km north of Whitianga, ranging the beaches and the waves, surfing and fishing like most living here. Cheffing seemed like a good career choice to maintain his Coro' lifestyle, so Luke worked at a couple of local restaurants, trained formally at Polytech and set off to hone his craft, travelling and cooking his way in Australia and across the Pacific.
Back eventually in Kuaotunu, Luke set up his own kitchen in a caravan, across the road from the beach, by his dad's garage. His one-table dining "establishment" was an immediate hit with locals who named his place, Luke's Kitchen. And it was word of mouth that led to its gradual expansion with a wood-fired pizza oven (built by dad) a bar and indoor tables, and a menu that extends way beyond pizza now. All good honest food
These days, Luke's Kitchen has plenty of seafood choices, salads and regular special dishes and a good choice of local brews, including those from local nano-brewery, Blue Fridge. (That's another story).
Businesses on The Coromandel are adept at making delicious creations from what is seasonal and locally grown. Luke's team uses what is available: pickling, making pestos, selling seedlings and excess produce, composting and recycling materials as they construct more facilities. It's a busy spot on balmy evenings, with guests savouring takeaway pizzas across the road at the beachside reserve when all the tables in the restaurant are occupied with those enjoying the last of the sun's rays. There is certainly no hurry to leave.
Live music is also on the menu, from local muso's to itinerant bands who love to visit Kuaotunu for a fix of Luke's hospitality. Luke doesn't have much time for surfing these days, but the team do take a bit of time off in winter to recharge their batteries (and plant the garden).
PS. Luke's Kitchen is right next door to Kua Kawhe, another great reason for a trip to Kuaotunu.