Kitchen Tips

Foodie Destination: Gatherer, Hari Hari

On the West Coast, where pub food is king, Alisha McIntosh has created a wholefood haven for tourists and locals in the tiny town of Hari Hari. Discover this oasis of health, which is so much more than just a cafe.

By Fiona Ralph
Gatherer, a 'wholefoods coffee house' in an unassuming black cottage an hour south of Hokitika, has become a hub for locals and tourists alike, with its library of cookbooks to peruse, garden seating area and array of plant-based meals and raw desserts.
"It's such a treat seeing people's eyes light up when they walk through our door, and hearing them comment on how happy they are to have stumbled across us in Hari Hari or – as so many of them put it – 'in the middle of nowhere'," says Alisha.

Small beginnings

Originally from Taranaki, Alisha has lived in Hari Hari with her husband for seven years. In 2012, she'd grown tired of her job as a food and beverage manager in Franz Josef, and so decided to start selling coffee and pies in Hari Hari – where the only other eatery was a pub. Undeterred by her lack of cooking experience, she purchased a caravan, taught herself to cook and slowly built up a following.
"I knew there was a need for good food in Hari Hari, and the fact it was a main tourist highway gave me confidence it would work. I never even considered the idea of it failing."
The only problem was that the caravan could only open on fine days – scarce on the West Coast – so, in 2016, Alisha jumped on the opportunity to buy the run-down cottage across the road from where she parked her caravan. Opening in early 2017 after an extensive renovation, the new cafe was called Hunter Gatherer, with meat pies one of the main drawcards.

A conscious evolution

When a ski injury from 2016 led to post-traumatic osteo arthritis, Alisha began to look into healing herself through her diet, and started studying naturopathy and nutrition part-time by correspondence through New Plymouth's Naturopathic College of New Zealand (she's now halfway through her qualification). Slowly Hunter Gatherer's pies were phased out, and in early 2018 the cafe was renamed Gatherer to highlight its new wholefood approach. Later that year, the cafe went entirely gluten free and Alisha introduced more plant-based options.
"The West Coast, with all its wild beauty and wonderful, creative people, unfortunately has a cafe culture that I consider consistently safe, with most places serving the same food as each other," she says.
"There is an absolute need for more healthy options for the local folk and tourists. It was definitely a risk opening something considered so niche by Coasters in such a small town, but that's where the satisfaction comes in for me."
Next summer the cafe's focus will shift again, she explains. "This coming season, the evolution will continue by phasing out the last of what I consider to be mainstream West Coast cafe fare. There will be a strong focus on healing foods and drinks, based on what I am learning within my studies, but also based on what I have seen people get excited about in the previous season."
That means more plant-based raw foods, Ayurvedic foods, cold-pressed juice, herbal teas and smoothies. There will also be more retail options, so people can take the delicious handmade food away.

More than just a cafe

When the tourists dry up over winter, Alisha shuts up the cafe, but there are still plant-based cooking classes, yoga workshops and retreats on offer if you are looking for a winter getaway.
Alisha's never short of ideas. From spring, she will be hosting a series of 'alkaline reset' weekends for small groups, who will stay at the Airbnb behind the cafe and take part in cooking, juicing and dehydrating classes, plant-based theory, yoga and foraging. And she's organising a group trip to Bali to do a raw-cooking course next April.
She's also excited about launching Cultivate, a local subscription service providing "seasonal recipes and growing tips, new products, hard-to-source ingredients and wellness information".
When Alisha finishes her studies, she wants to make use of her naturopathy skills. "I am excited at the prospect of using my qualification on the Coast. I hope to create a small practice with a holistic approach, based in Hari Hari, but also with a mobile and online service. Continuing to learn is incredibly important to me," says the self-taught photographer, who shot all the images for this story. "It's something I think I'll always strive to do, whether it's studying or taking on new projects and hobbies. Learning, and then sharing what we learn, is amazingly rewarding for anyone, and in this small community, I am so fortunate to be able to do just that."
110 Main Road
Hari Hari, West Coast

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