A sign on the door of Landon Elder and Aynslie Harper's café acknowledges family - it's behind their business and the reason they're in Taranaki.

The sign reads:

A brief history of how George's Moturoa came about. Firstly the name comes from my amazing Grandad George Manu. This man spent his whole life serving others. Whether that was cooking out at the Marae, gathering kai moana or toiling in the garden to provide for his Whanau. We at George's Moturoa are very lucky to have been blessed with this same passion for cooking for others and hope this shows through with our kai and service. Whanau and especially children were very important to grandad as they are to us, we not only allow, but encourage you to bring your tamariki in to play, make noise and eat real unprocessed food just like Grandad made for us. So if you haven't already done so bring the kids down for a feed and a play or just to say hello. All our food is made onsite from real ingredients. We strive to bring awesome coffee and real food to the real people of New Plymouth. No packets no short cuts."

The lunchbar in the New Plymouth suburb of Moturoa was started in 2018 by Landon Elder and Aynslie Harper, and it’s fast becoming famous for its fried bread, a traditional snack that usually found at gatherings on marae – Māori community hubs. The bread is made from a recipe belonging to Landon’s Koro (grandfather) George Manu. As soon as the eatery opened people began asking for it. George’s Facebook site regularly tells everyone that customers have to get in quick because it is so popular!

This connection to Māori culture is central to both the business, and to Landon, who shares the values of whanauatanga (family) and mānakitanga (hospitality). Becoming chef was a logical career move, linking both values, and together with his high school sweetheart Aynslie, Landon moved to Australia, settling in Melbourne to pursue his dream, while Aynsley gained success as an editor in the publishing industry.

Something of a culinary capital, Melbourne offered Landon some great opportunities, and the family – now with two boys, who Landon admits were “latte kids” - enjoyed all that Melbourne had to offer. But a work week that regularly stretched to 70-80 hours wasn’t easy for the young family, and the idea of a return to Taranaki started to gain some serious appeal.

“Whenever we went home to Taranaki, Xavier was straight into all the things that are part of being a Kiwi kid – playing with cousins, climbing trees, and visiting the beach,” Landon says.

“When you’re young you don’t appreciate what’s right there in front of you. I took it all for granted.”

The Elders returned to Taranaki in 2017 so sons Xavier (5) and Toby (17 months) could enjoy the Taranaki lifestyle and grow up closer to their family.

“It was relatively easy to move home, but there just weren’t the job opportunities I was used to in Melbourne.”

But the universe provided, in a way that seems to happen with greater regularity in Taranaki, and contacts got Landon work driving a truck for food supplier Bidvest, which led to getting to know the owner of a cake shop in on St Aubyn Street in  Moturoa, who mentioned she was looking for a change. The couple seized on the opportunity and George’s was born.

“Setting up the business was a lot easier than we had thought. New Plymouth District Council were really helpful and provided us with the advice and support to get started,” says Landon.

The couple are passionate about what they’re doing, and providing good food to families at an affordable price. It’s easy to see how the eatery has quickly become a focal point in the local community, while becoming a key caterer for Taranaki iwi.

The family lives nearby, just a short stroll from the business, and they are equally close to the beach.

“We would never have been able to afford a home in Melbourne, let alone one so close to the coast,” Aynslie says.
While Taranaki doesn’t always offer the same availability of ingredients and inspiration that Melbourne did, the quality of both produce and lifestyle more than make up for it.

The kids are growing up outdoors with their cousins, the garden is filled with fresh vegetables for the eatery and Koro George’s legendary fried bread is regularly whipped up for visitors to both their home and business. Landon and Aynslie couldn’t imagine a better mix of family and hospitality - whanauatanga and mānakitanga – than what they now have living in Taranaki.
Five Favourite Sunday adventures
While running George’s is a time consuming business, Sundays are reserved for the family. Here’s where you’ll likely find them:
  1. On their bikes
    “The coastal walkway stretches the length of New Plymouth and is amazing for learning to ride, plus the bike park at Bell Block is great for small children,” says Landon
  2. The beach
    “Even if it’s cold and raining, there’s always something to discover. We keep a bucket and spade in the car all year around for impromptu beach trips.”
  3. Pukekura Park
    “In the middle of New Plymouth is the most amazing park. It’s particularly good during the Festival of Lights every January – free entertainment for everyone.”
  4. Regional Gardens
    “Xavier loves Tupare in New Plymouth. It’s huge, with so many places to discover, and fantastic swimming hole next to a free barbeque."
  5. Mount Taranaki
    “You can’t miss it, and there’s a walk suitable for all ages and abilities,” Landon says.