Empanada kiosk bid in good taste

An Argentinian man proved the way to councillors' hearts was through their stomachs at a Queenstown Lakes District Council community services committee meeting yesterday - providing the councillors, staff, media and public with complimentary South American pasties ahead of the committee discussing his application for a 10-year rental of a proposed Earnslaw Park kiosk.

Mauro Viale, the Empanada Kitchen director, spoke to the committee during the public forum about his plans to rent the kiosk, to be established in the renovated Earnslaw Park public toilet building, which he would use to serve empanadas.

Expressions of interest for the 3sq m space were called for in December and Mr Viale's was the only application received.

Mr Viale's proposal said the empanadas would be prepared and cooked in a commercial kitchen and delivered by van to the kiosk, which would contain equipment to keep the South American pasties hot until sold.

It was proposed to also offer cold drinks, but no coffee or alcohol, for sale and he did not consider seating would be required.

The Empanada Kitchen was proposed to be open from 10am to 11pm daily and would align with the public use of Earnslaw Park - which was often associated with food.

''There are no direct competitors selling identical products ... Our empanada flavours are all unique and hand-made.

''Our philosophy is `simple things done well'.''

Mr Viale's proposal said there were initial concerns over the compatibility of the product with public toilets. However, he had been advised by Lakes Environmental's health officer it was possible to serve food at the location despite its proximity to the public toilets.

''The proximity of the toilets means that, if desired, there is somewhere close by where customers can wash their hands before eating.''

Mr Viale told the committee yesterday he believed the addition of the Empanada Kitchen in the kiosk would be a ''good asset for Queenstown, especially for the multicultural market''.

''It will be a kind of fast food ... It's affordable and a high-standard product, I believe.''

To prove his point Mr Viale sought the committee's permission to bring in a selection of his empanadas to taste.

The smells wafting through the council chambers proved too much and committee chairwoman Cath Gilmour initiated a ''five-minute break'' while an amended recommendation for another agenda item was drafted, encouraging those present to have an empanada.

For many, one was not enough and Mr Viale's culinary skills quickly earned the favour of those present - resulting in the committee accepting the recommendation, which will see the public notified of the council's intention to grant the lease to the Empanada Kitchen and appoint a hearings panel to hear any submissions.

Community Services general manager Paul Wilson said the council's plans to upgrade the public toilets at Earnslaw Park needed to proceed ''immediately'' so the toilets were ready for the 2013 Queenstown Winter Festival.

Tenders for the proposal close today, but tenderers had indicated the construction period would be longer than originally planned for.

''If we want to have this facility open for Winter Festival, we [need to] start immediately.

''I do want to bring construction forward, so we'll need to put temporary toilets in until Easter at least.''