With a lifelong passion for food and hospitality, experienced chef and café owner Nigel Tollemache opened Urban Verge in Epsom, Auckland in 2017. Serving delicious food and coffee, the licensed daytime café is popular with families due to its warm, welcoming, child-friendly atmosphere and facilities.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I have always enjoyed food. Being the youngest of 8 children, I discovered my love of food helping feed my family throughout my childhood years. Cooking was also another way to get out of other domestic chores!
I started working in the hospitality profession at the age of 16 as a part-time kitchenhand before being offered a chef traineeship. I have been lucky enough to work in many restaurants and hotels throughout New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and on super yachts throughout Europe.
In the mid ’90s, I purchased my first café called The Edge City Café in Westmere, Auckland, following up with Frolic Café, Epsom, Auckland in 1999, Soulburger, Whangamata in 2010 and now Urban Verge, Epsom in late 2017.
At Urban Verge we have set up a community café where everyone is welcome, including young families. We have clean, smart premises with a friendly environment for everyone to enjoy superb coffee, tasty unpretentious food and beverages. We provide a kids’ menu with an activity sheet, a covered secure deck with blackboard, toys and highchairs. A baby changing table is available in the bathroom.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
When launching Urban Verge, everything that could go wrong, went spectacularly wrong! Even before we opened, we had council mislaying triplicates of important application forms and also employed staff who did not turn up to pre-trainings and then not at all. In the first 6 months we had ongoing electrical and gas problems, brand new equipment failures and unreliable staff, which is not an easy issue to fix due to employment law! However, by eliminating these problems and finding fantastic, reliable and enthusiastic staff, we managed to get through – YAY! On that note, I would really like to say a big thank you to those who gave us their support, tolerance and understanding. We are now into our third year and are always looking at new and interesting ideas.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Owning your own business is hard and not for the fainthearted. I currently spend 3 days a week down in Whangamata with my family. The rest of my time I am in Auckland working at Urban Verge with my fabulous team.