People stand in long queues to get their serve of what many call Rarotonga’s best fish and chips.
For chef and owner of The Pacific Fish and Chip Shop, Mata Nooroa Jr, keeping up with demand every night can be a daunting task, but in many ways, it’s nothing new.
Nooroa served in the military as a chef for over 10 years and working in chaotic environments, including war-torn countries became part of his life.
“It (army life) took me to places overseas which has been a good experience for me. I have definitely learnt a lot, especially about other cultures,” he said.
“I’m used to cooking in such (chaotic) environments so I think it’s a big advantage for me in running this shop that I have been trained to cook in any situation, pretty much in any environment, in any space and using minimal equipment to produce the same product as a five-star restaurant would serve.”
As far as an ever-growing crowd of loyal customers is concerned, the Pacific Fish and Chip Shop is nothing less than five-star.
Serving scrumptious, perfectly fried fresh fish served with French fries and other mouthwatering foods, the tiny takeaway place has become the talk of the island.
Nooroa Jr left the army and moved to Rarotonga earlier last year to give his parents a hand.
His wife Sarah Dewes and their two children joined him in May.
“I suppose the reason we started this was we missed having good fish and chips like you get in New Zealand and also there is pretty much nothing on this side of the island in the way of eateries,” he said.
“One of the things we found travelling around the island was the price of food is pretty expensive. It’s kind of sad that people can’t afford a simple meal. That was probably the biggest reason why we opened this.
“We have also been doing odd jobs since we arrived here and we wanted to work for ourselves, rather than others.”
It took about a couple of months for the husband and wife duo to renovate the shop and ship the equipment from New Zealand.
Because of a busy schedule, they didn’t have time to promote their new business before it started.
But as it turned out, that took care of itself.
“We pretty much just opened the doors. We didn’t do any advertising, but I guess the word of mouth, posts on social media plus human curiosity just worked well for us,” Nooroa said.
“Everything is fresh. We don’t pre-batter anything. Every day we come to town, do the shopping, take everything back to the shop and start prepping it.
“We have a small place with a tiny kitchen. We have hired a woman to help us on Tuesdays and dad (Mata Nooroa Sr) looks after the front counter. He loves it.”
Nooroa said they normally serve locally-caught fresh albacore.
Apart from their signature dish, their potato fritters and deep fried chocolate bars are pretty famous too.
Being so busy hasn’t affected the new outlet’s service, Nooroa says.
“Before people even place their order, we always let them know that ‘look it will take a bit long’, and pretty much everyone is like ‘yeah, its fine’. Some of them will walk away saying they will return the next day, while others wait.
“We also do phone orders which delays the process. We try to be really fast but we have to sacrifice time to ensure we produce quality food.”
Having had a taste of early success, Nooroa Jr says the couple now have plans to extend the place.
Sarah says they also plan to venture into wedding planning business, which has been their dream project.
“We wanted to do wedding packages which we will probably do because we have family land, accommodation, he (Nooroa Jr) is a chef, I’m a hairdresser and Mata (Nooroa Sr) is a marriage celebrant. So it’s all in the family.”
Nooroa Jr said The Pacific Fish and Chip Shop was a perfect way to learn about business.
“We normally get up at seven and go to bed at 1.30am. At the beginning, we thought it would be easy but it gets harder which I think is good, because it keeps you busy and with the help of family, friends and the community, you are able to learn.”
At just 29, Nooroa Jr knows all about taking risks in life and overcoming them.
It worked well for him when he signed up for the military at a young age of 17, and he knows it will work for him now.
Note – The Pacific Fish and Chip Shop is open from 5pm to 10pm from Monday to Wednesday, 4pm to 10pm on Thursday and Friday and 12.30pm to 6.30pm on Sunday.