It all started with a simple question, asked one midsummer’s night thirty years ago by a man sitting with friends around a bonfire on a sandy beach on New Zealand’s Eastern Coast. This man was Jack, and his question was this:
Where in the world is the best meal made?
Jack’s comrades pondered this question, each arriving at his or her own conclusion. For Didier, it was a small bakery in his hometown in Southern France; for Carlos, the tacos made by his grandmother back in Mexico; for Chang, it was the BBQ pork belly buns from his hometown Taipei. As the discussion went on, Jack realised that he could not possibly answer the question for himself until he had tried them all. So that’s exactly what he did.
Armed with nothing but a rucksack and a sunhat, Jack boarded the next ship bound for Australia, where he began his quest to find the best meal in the world. He didn’t know it then, but this quest would last 27 years, taking him to 195 countries across 7 continents. What started as a simple question would become his master work.
As Jack’s journey went on, he began to realise one simple truth, and it was a truth that a wiser man may have gathered from that one night around the bonfire (Alas! He was a young fool back then). This truth became clearer and clearer the more he ate. There was no ‘best’ meal in the world. There were many! So many! Every culture he encountered had its own ‘best’ dish, and, infuriatingly for Jack, they were all so delicious and masterful in their own way. No comparison could be made between them. He found that the greatest meals he ate were a symphony many factors: occasion, location, scenery, the company, as well as the food itself.
Returning to New Zealand many years later, still with his sunhat and rucksack now full of scribbled recipes and flavours, Jack once again found himself sitting around the bonfire on a sandy beach on the Eastern Coast. This time, it was not a question that came to him, but an answer. He knew now, with certainty, that there were several meals to call the best. Did these meals not deserve to be enjoyed by the good people of his land? He could be the man to bring these meals to the people, wherever they were, whatever the celebration.
As fortune had it, his old mate had a look-alike Airstream caravan, and with a few simple modifications and council food & safety consent, Jack was ready to go: combining his love of roaming and food into a simple business that would be known as Vagabond Jack’s.
These days, you’ll find Vagabond Jack’s serving tasty treats of the world all around Hawke’s Bay and beyond. And when everything is aligned, you too could have the best meal ever.