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SELWYN TIMES Tuesday June 14 2016 29 Food Cooking for the creative crowd • By Gabrielle Stuart LUNCHES AT XCHC are something quite different. The building – Exchange Christchurch – serves as a hub for creative people in the city: singers, fashion designers, architects, tech developers and artists. Aliesha McGilligan’s cafe is a place where they all come together, alongside many people from the wider community, from tradies to foodies. “People come from all over town, and people travel. I’ve had people walk an hour and a half to get here,” she said. Her goal is to create something unique, with communal tables, a fixed, seasonal menu each day and all locally-sourced ingredients, from the fresh-baked bread to the milk and produce brought from local farmers. But creating something different is nothing new to her. Her first foray into the kitchen was as a kitchen-hand at The Tap Room, where she worked her way up until she earned responsibility for making the desserts. “It’s not just about reading a recipe, you had to be quite agile, and I really thought about the science of it. I started to do the desserts better than their chef did, so they told me to put on some whites.” Since then, she has worked in all kinds of kitchens – from fine dining restaurant Matterhorn in Wellington, where she said a puree could be worked on for 15 hours to make sure it was shiny enough, to open-air stalls at the Christchurch Farmers’ Market and The Commons. At 3pm on the day of the February 22 earthquake, she was set to sign a contract to work with chef Simo Abbari at the Crowne Plaza. But Restaurant Simo’s was badly damaged in the earthquakes and then demolished. “It was months until I could help Simo restart his new restaurant, and we went from opulence to essentially a carpark next to Domino’s,” she said. Her next move was to Riccarton House, working at the restaurant and at the Christchurch Farmers’ Market. “It was a dream job, really. As a young chef, you are always told do this recipe, do this recipe, weigh this out, but when I got there they said what menu are you putting out today? So they LOCAL INGREDIENTS: Aliesha McGilligan prepares a seasonal menu at XCHC. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN gave me a chance to start with the idea, to bring myself to the plate.” She went on to work for owner Jamie Bennett for four years, helping him to open his Passengers & Co and Town Tonic restaurants. On her weekends off she worked on her own projects, selling fresh ice cream at the farmers’ market and wood-fired pizza at The Commons through Gapfiller. That often meant she worked seven days a week, but she said she loved it. That was where she met XCHC founder Camia Young, who recruited her to open the cafe. She said the community she discovered there was amazing. “It shines through, you can taste it, you can feel it and it’s palpable. Customers are excited about it and we feed off that. For me, it’s about the whole ecology of the whole process. I don’t want to be just consuming, I want to be supporting my friends who happen to be the best organic farmers in town.” She said growing up without much on the east side of town helped to shape her vision for the cafe. She was inspired by her mother’s “hospitable spirit” as she made hearty, satisfying food on a small budget, and by her foodie uncle who gave her an insight into a different world of food. That also fed into the way she managed her team, and her goals for the future of the cafe. “I would like to work on a new model for hospitality. It’s workers need to be treated better, my team needs to be supported with a living wage, and nutritious food and enough time to enjoy it, and encouragement and support for personal development.” THE HOME OF GOOD BAKING SOUTHERN PLAINS BREAD VARIETIES 2 FOR $ 5 00 LOLLY SLICE Ideal for kids of all ages - great for parties. ONLY $ 3 49 EA JUMBO BISCUITS Afghan, Apricot Yoghurt, Belgium, Choc Chip, Ginger Crunch. 4 FOR $ 5 00 HAMBURGER BUNS 6pk Classic hamburger buns, nice & soft. $ 1 99 MILK Dairy Dale 2L varieties. $ 5 98 2 FOR or $3.19 each MUFFINS 6pk $ 4 49 Assorted flavours. Promotional pricing available while stocks last from 13/06/16 to 19/06/16. Images are serving suggestions only. Open 7 days | 8 Convenient local locations Hornby • Barrington • Ferry Rd • Papanui • Riccarton • Upper Riccarton • New Brighton • Rangiora BAKERIES www.couplands.co.nz