Mr Goodfellow

Words by Denise Irvine

Hamilton chef Brad Bakker became catering manager at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in January 2020, just a couple of months ahead of the country’s first Covid pandemic lockdown. He and his kitchen team went from cooking for the school’s 140 boarders to overseeing an empty dining room as students quickly went home.

“Suddenly the school was deserted and we had no one to cook for,” he says. He and his staff were still on site. It was like they were all dressed up with nowhere to go. Brad didn’t like being idle, it’s not his natural style, so he and Diocesan’s then commercial manager Delwyn Guilford talked about ways to diversify, using the team’s skills and the facilities to create another revenue stream for Diocesan.

Mr Goodfellow Catering (MGF) was born out of these talks, an out-catering business with a “Good Food Good Mood” slogan, run under the school’s umbrella but independent of day-to-day cooking for students.

Mr Goodfellow takes its name from Sir William Goodfellow, one of the original owners of Waikato Diocesan’s site on Hamilton’s River Road. Sir William was a generous school benefactor and the former owner of the historic Bankwood House, which nowadays serves as Diocesan’s reception area and home for its principal.

The company named in Sir William’s honour caters for a wide range of clients: it may be 200 people at a corporate event, or a wedding, or perhaps a buffet drop-off for 50 guests at a birthday party, or a private dinner party for eight. A food truck with smart MGF signage and fit-out has been added to the mix (you can catch it at Gourmet in the Gardens on summer Sundays).

Brad says they’re now seeing the snowball effect on the MGF brand. It is gaining momentum, and happily headquartered in a state-of-the-art kitchen – which he helped design – to service the new school dining area that opened in April 2023. The staff is organised to split student and out-catering requirements.  “It’s an amazing facility,” he says. “It’s great to use it to the maximum.”

In other developments, Hamilton hospo professional Emily Donderwinkel joined the MGF team as catering events co-ordinator, and there is also an online shop with a range of house-made condiments and take-home heat-and-eat meals.

Photo of Mr Goodfellow Food Truck and Catering at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand. Taken: Thursday, 11 August 2022. Photography: Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Mr Goodfellow.

The spoiler alert on the condiments is that Mr Goodfellow’s punchy habanero mustard from the online range that I intended as a gift never made it to the intended recipient because it’s so damn good, and same with the hot pineapple chutney.

Which leads us to talk about food:  Brad says he likes to brush the mustard on a side of salmon, and top it with capers and lemon. It’s also good with his buffet-style roast beef, and other meats. The pineapple chutney is an essential on MGF’s cheeseboard, and it adds extra flavour to a beef brisket and cheddar quesadilla (on the food truck menu).

Another buffet specialty is slow-cooked lamb leg (done overnight), served with homemade red wine jus alongside fresh seasonal salads. Brad shops as local as possible for produce, using the likes of meat from Te Awamutu-based butcher Expleo, and breads from Hamilton’s Volare and Grumpy Baker. “Everything is made from scratch, including all the condiments.”

The food truck menu is strong on condiments: the Asian-style fried chicken comes with wasabi mayo, Nashville fried chicken has MGF’s amped-up Mac Sauce on the side, venison mini-burgers are served with Swiss cheese and kasundi, and so on.

“Everyone raves about the food,” says Emily. “And people love the baking. When they have Brad’s caramel slice, they usually say, ‘It’s just like my grandmother used to make’.”

In fact the MGF caramel slice is one that Brad’s own grandmother, Hazel Hayes, made when he was a youngster. Brad named his first Hamilton café Hazel Hayes, after his gran, who was an excellent baker. This is one of Brad’s specialties, too, and his Hazel Hayes brand also had a substantial catering business.

Brad is originally a South Islander, from Invercargill, and he did his London and City Guilds chef training in Dunedin and Christchurch. He went overseas as a 21 year old and stayed five years, working in kitchens in Europe, the UK, and Ireland, came back to Wellington, then moved to Hamilton. He opened Hazel Hayes in north Victoria Street in 2010, and later owned Mr Milton’s Canteen in Alexandra Street.

Kiwi chef Al Brown is Brad’s top food hero, and Brown’s Auckland eatery, Depot, is his favourite restaurant. “His food has heaps of flavour, it’s rustic, and not all fancied up.” On the laden bookshelf in Brad’s office there is a faded but not jaded Al Brown cookbook with a busted spine. Testament to plenty of use on his kitchen bench.

If Brad were to explain his own culinary style it would be along the lines of “cooking from scratch, nothing the same twice, bloody good food, everything made in house”.

Emily Donderwinkel adds a last line: “Mr Goodfellow’s food is made with love, served with love, and a smile. We know it’s good.”


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