Chef Series: The Shack, Raglan

26 July 2023

Meet the Chef: Justin Thompson, The Shack Raglan

An institution in Raglan for over 12 years, The Shack continues to be a favourite among locals and out-of-towners alike, and when you taste their inspired dishes and experience their warm customer service, you’ll quickly understand why.

As a long-time wholesale customer of Volare, we recently had the pleasure of stopping by for a visit. We got to chatting with head chef Justin Thomson to learn a bit more about his journey as a chef and how he wound up owning and operating this Whaingaroa icon with his wife Alex.

Where did it all begin?

My journey as a chef started at the age of 17 – so 30 years ago – but it runs in the family so has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in restaurants with Mum, Dad, and Grandparents all once involved in the industry up in the Bay of Islands where I was born. When I was older, I went over to Spain and worked in restaurants, and eventually came back to Hamilton to go to University but worked full-time in kitchens throughout. Never officially training as a chef, I learnt on the job. 

How would you describe your culinary style?

My approach is pretty casual and I’m inspired by a lot of my favourite foods that happen to come from Mediterranean cultures such as Italian and Spanish. I also love working with rice.  At The Shack, we predominantly focus on a brunch menu that will appeal to the masses but still takes a unique approach.

What is the most popular dish on the menu?

For a while now, it’s been the fried rice dish that we continue to change to suit the seasons. Currently, it’s a Chilli Crunch Rice dish made with Miso fried brown rice, coriander & cabbage slaw, kewpie mayo, lime & peanut chilli crunch, served with either kimchi (vegan) or sticky chicken thigh.

Does your menu always change with the seasons?

Seasonal flavours are important to us and we try to change with the season but customers definitely still expect things that are out of season. This seems to be changing though, with more education and a stronger focus on supporting local in general.

Speaking of, do you try to source locally?

Local providers are always our first choice and we support as many Raglan and Waikato businesses as we can, such as Soul Food FarmsDreamview MilkRaglan Food CoMushrooms by the SeaRaglan ChocolateRaglan GelatoRaglan Bagels and Volare to name a few.

What is your favourite thing about being part of the Raglan community?

We live just out of town on my wife’s family farm and love the beauty of the place, but also the chill and creative people that are attracted to this place. We’re very fortunate to have developed strong support from locals over the past 12 years, it definitely helps to get us through the quiet times.

How has Raglan changed over the years?

Since the pandemic, there’s been a lot more people working from home and Raglan is one of those places that encourages that. There are several large developments going on at the moment – including the Rangitahi Peninsula – so the community is growing and business has picked up over the past few years. But even with all the growth, the heart of Raglan stays the same.

What is one core value that you think has helped your success?

The health and wellbeing of our staff is really important to us, so if our staff need a break, we close, or if we are short-staffed, we limit our menu. Creating a good culture is always the goal and it’s essential to the success of our business.

What’s next for The Shack?

After a very long winter, we are excited about summer (hopefully a dry summer) and hope to host some more pop-up dinners.

Sound like a bit of you? Make sure to follow The Shack on Facebook and Instagram to be kept up to date with all of their exciting summer announcements and menu changes. We hope you’ll stop by and check them out when you’re next in Raglan, Whaingaroa.

Interested in becoming a Wholesale customer? Contact us by clicking here.