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Q - Why all the neon?
All the lighting in Deja vu is neon. It’s quirky. I got inspired when I saw neon lights being used at places I visited on overseas trips over the years. The piece of neon at the entrance ‘‘you are my favourite daydream’’ is a beautiful phrase I saw when I met my partner’s parents for the second time in Beijing in September last year. It was a good memory, hence the name Deja vu. I’ve dedicated this restaurant to my fiance.
Q - What’s the story behind the mural?
The mural is painted by artist Tyler Kennedy Stent, who painted the Ed Sheeran mural. The mural depicts a real dragon statue in a Japanese temple, which is about 1000 years old, and is a guardian for the young and old.
Q - How many hospitality businesses do you own in Dunedin now and why did you decide to open another one?
I own four — Deja vu, Vault 21, Prohibition Smokehouse and Catacombs nightclub. I opened Deja vu for two reasons — Madam Woo coowner Fleur Caulton approached me earlier in the year about the venue and I politely said no because I had a lot on my plate then, but I had a concept and the venue is perfect to realise it now.
Q - Speaking of Madam Woo — the owners told media the closure in Dunedin in January this year was prompted by the restaurant’s struggle to source senior skilled kitchen staff — is this a problem in the industry in Dunedin?
It’s all about how you manage your staff and we always look after all of our staff. We’ve recruited Sam Harris, a former sous-chef at Peter Gordon’s restaurants in London. She’s a Taieri girl and has returned home.
Q - Do you see a bright future for hospitality in Dunedin?
This year has been tough for operators because all the costs have gone up, such as wages and products, and margins are getting very slim but we are banking on the future in Dunedin for the next five to ten years to be very bright— we just have to work smartly.