It’s called Coastal Kitchen and it’s located at Tupapa.
The pair said they saw a major gap in the market catering for event organisers who struggled to find private venues to hire on Rarotonga.
“There are maybe one or two other venues on the island that have private rooms for hire, but apart from them, people are really reliant on conference centres in some of the larger resorts,” McKay said.
“However, you are surrounded by other guests and this can sometimes not be ideal if you are wanting a private or intimate wedding or function.
“There are few places on the island that are truly private, so we saw an opportunity to offer people the chance to host their special events somewhere private, and convenient.
Entering the venue, you’re greeted by the sight Rarotonga’s beautiful lagoon, framed by Cook Islands nature.
The idyllic setting offers event organisers a “blank canvas”, whereby McKay and her team of helpers can tailor-make an event to any theme or party idea.
“If you look at the range of things we have hosted, it kind of tells a story. We have had significant birthdays, we’ve had corporate dinners (the Asian Development Bank had a dinner here) and we’ve had big fundraisers. For example the Cook Islands Sailing Club had a dinner and raised all the money they needed to send their sailing team to New Zealand for the champs,” Fox said.
“We’ve had weddings, conferences, ‘hen’s does’, and all of that means you learn to tailor to whatever people want, whatever food or function they want,” he added.
McKay says Coastal Kitchen is yet to come across an event they can’t cater.
“I have been coordinating and organising events for 25 odd years now, so you learn not to dwell on things and to just get on with it and find a solution.”
The full-time mum has an extensive background in event planning, and her wide experience definitely helped when it came to setting up Coastal Kitchens.
“My background is in public relations, events, communications. Previously I worked for Telecom and was a government relations executive, so event planning and organising has become second nature,” McKay said.
The pair decided to open Coastal Kitchens as an extension to their home. The venue, which was cleverly crafted out of shipping containers took six months to build and features an open plan design. In its standard form, the venue can cater for around 80 people. However, the pair once hosted a wedding party for around 200 people, the third wedding they had catered for in 10 days.
“Safe to say there was a lot of dishes,” Fox said with a grin.
McKay said the wedding originally started off with 100 guests, and within 24 hours an extra 70 people had been invited.
“We are pretty flexible though, so changes like that aren’t too much of a bother,” she said.
McKay and Fox said a point of difference with their business, is its ability to cater for family groups.
The child-friendly venue offers party-goers and children alike the chance to relax, with the security of a safe venue and with a pool, tree house and entertainment to keep the kids occupied.
“The influence came from our young son. His official role within Coastal Kitchens is “director of youth activities”, and he takes his role very seriously,” said Derek, laughing.
With numerous events scheduled for the future, the business are now looking to “branch out”
“We have an extraordinary chef, Rangi Mitaera Johnson, who is a key part of our team.
‘We have been looking into running a cooking school. We will pick up visiting tourists, take them with us to buy local produce, and teach them how to cook a local dish.
“We are keen to keep local food alive,” McKay said.
The pair say their goal will always be to make their clients’ day as special, memorable and stress-free as possible.
“We work closely with the clients, and cater to their personal food tastes. We can provide entertainment, music, transport, decorations, the works.
“Where we can, we really try to help.
“Because at the end of the day we are here to make your special day, special,” McKay said.