There’s something of the French romance movie about Amandine Brisson-Bodio’s journey from Lyon to Morningside.
The French thing is straightforward enough. Amandine lived in Lyon until she was 27 and made the move to New Zealand with her partner because they were tired of France and ready for new pastures.
The romance is straightforward enough too. That relationship ended after they’d been in New Zealand for five years, and just a short while later Amandine, at the time a single mother of one-year-old Leah, rekindled an old friendship and ended up falling in love with someone who was also, yes, French.
“I’m 18,000km from home and I meet up with another French guy,” says Amandine, Crave cafe’s manager. “Seems I was meant to be with a French guy.”
As far as the movie component of her story goes, Amandine’s journey has elements of Green Card (with Gerard Depardieu), with a touch of Pixar’s Ratatouille and the culinary film Chef. For several years she was the manager of L’Atelier du Fromage in Newmarket, and her partner still works at Maison Vauron on the floor above.
A year ago they imported an old Citroen truck from France and have started their own rotisserie food truck, Gaston Rotisserie, which sets up at field days and events like the Matakana and Takapuna markets. It’s a long way from the political science Amandine studied before leaving France, but hospitality, and especially managing a busy cafe in a buzzing community, has become her dream.
“My boyfriend reminded me that a year and a half ago I said my dream job was working in a big, busy cafe, managing a busy place, but also doing something better for the neighbourhood and the community,” Amandine says. “I forget about it, but it’s true. And I’ve made it, it’s exactly what I wanted, so I think sometimes things are meant to be and meant to happen, you know?”
That seems especially the case since Amandine lives two minutes’ walk from Crave and finding carers for Leah is sometimes as easy as being part of the Crave family. But 18 months ago, when Amandine first started working at the cafe, it didn’t necessarily seem so ideal, considering Crave’s community ethos, which is grounded in Christian faith.
“Honestly, I was a bit scared at the beginning, having no faith, and especially talking with my French friends. Most of them are like me, and they were saying, Isn’t it weird that you’re going to work for some people like this? But I realised after a few months they are actually just the most open minded people that I ever met.
“I love being around those people, they are just amazing. To actually do business and make your neighbourhood better and look after your staff and all the community … I’m like, far out that’s crazy. Now I’m a super advocate for Crave and when I meet someone I’m like, Crave is awesome. I’m super proud to be a part of that.”
One aspect that stumps even Amandine’s friends is that all Crave’s profit goes back into the community.
“There are still some people who want to do something better, and not just for lots of money—some people don’t want to do that. And being part of that now, I’m like, wow, it’s great.”