For former tauira Matias (Matu) Cacciavillani and his partner Chelsea Hall, it is their love for good food made from quality produce that is the foundation to their successful catering and food truck business.
The internationally-trained chef had begun devising a business idea with Chelsea while they worked and travelled the world, but it wasn’t until they settled in Whakatū Nelson that they really shifted gears to turn the concept into reality. Matu, who originally hails from Argentina, realised that in order to give their plan the best chances, he would need to study the mechanics of running a business and decided to enrol in Te Wānanga o Aotearoa’s course in Nelson.
“One key thing we focused a lot on in the course, and that we have implemented, is market research - always ask yourself who is your client and what problem you are solving for them,” says Matu.
In 2017 the programme on offer was a Certificate in Business Management Level 4 which today is offered in combination with the Certificate in Project Management.
Matu says although he and Chelsea had already started ‘Viva La Vaca’ by the time he started studying, the course allowed him to hone-in on developing some of the more technical aspects.
“We now work off templates and have some great Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that allow us to work smarter and faster. These were particularly hard for us, as we had to write the SOPs from scratch and then implement them while on the go,” says Matu.
Twelve years on, the pair now run a commercial kitchen for catering which makes up the bulk of their business. From intimate two or three course meals to whole wedding banquets for hundreds of guests, the dynamic duo stick to their philosophy of creating unique culinary experiences for their customers.
“Fresh, local, seasonal, simple. We allow products to speak for themselves, we have some amazing crafters in the top of the south, great weather and variety. Every time we cook for our customers we are celebrating the Whakatū region and all that our growers and producers have to offer!” says Matu.
They still take their food truck on road trips to festivals and open air gatherings, where a parilla (open-fire BBQ) can be seen grilling scrumptious cuts of steak and juicy handmade chorizo ready to be topped with homemade salsa and pickle blends. The menu also boasts a vegetarian option oozing with specially sourced cheese, a delectable morsel that has regular punters seeking out the cheerful blue and yellow truck among the street food line-up.
Matu and Chelsea say the journey has had its share of challenges, including the impact of the pandemic on events, but their optimism, drive and aroha all play a role in delivering true to their motto of “love at first bite”.