Carmen Ko took over the Firepot Cafe, with her wife Yupin in November 2016. It’s just great, she tells N8N’s Annette Taylor. This story ran in Home Range magazine.
“I love Gordonton,” says the Firepot Cafe’s Carmen Ko. “There’s a warm feeling here. I love the locals. Some come in for coffee every day.”
Carmen is from Malaysia and after finishing high school came to New Zealand to study. “But I didn’t do well at study so got a job in an Indian restaurant in Auckland washing dishes, and ending up managing it.”
She moved to Hamilton when the restaurant opened a new branch in town.
“And that’s how I ended up falling in love with the Waikato. It’s beautiful, not crowded, no traffic and the people are more easy-going.”
After the Indian restaurant closed, she took a job in a cafe at The Base – “starting from zero again. I did everything, cooking, waitressing. I love meeting and talking with new people.”
Around this time she began a pilot training course with the Waikato Aero Club and while she passed all of the papers, it was too expensive to continue and she went back to cafe work.
She met Yupin in Thailand. “She played a huge role in my life, encouraged me a lot. She felt I could step up, and if we wanted to we could get a better life.”
The pair decided to look for a cafe to buy and after a year, Carmen was about to give up when she heard the Firepot was about to come on the market.
“I’d been out here before, when Michelle [Bishop] ran it, and loved it. This was the one, I knew.”
They bought it in November 2016 and bought a second cafe, the Olive Cafe in Flagstaff last year.
“So, yes, I’m a bit busy. I work five to six days a week, and I work hard.”
They have a staff of nine at The Firepot, including three chefs, although Carmen doesn’t hesitate to grab an apron and help out in the kitchen.
“I like to be busy and the kitchen is my favourite place.”
The food at the Firepot is typical Kiwi style – all-day breakfasts and all-day lunch, made with fresh, quality ingredients.
“We are now serving gluten-free slices, all made here. I’m glad we can create a place where people can meet up together.”
Carmen says it’s a great location – “It makes a good gathering point, for people from Auckland and Hamilton. They can meet and catch up in Gordonton.”