Meet the Food Truck | Ben Harper, Piku

Japanese food is loved far and wide, and Ben Harper ensures this continues with his food truck, Piku.

Having previously worked in London for 15 years, dominantly in cocktail bartending and management, Harper began to run a sharing-style Japanese restaurant before moving to Hawke’s Bay. 

The introduction of Piku was a stepping stone for Harper to open his own restaurant and cocktail bar, which followed 18 months after Harper bought the food truck. 

“Our menu is Japanese fusion, which blends elements of other Asian cuisines with traditional Japanese flavours and dishes.”

With a sharing menu to match, Harper has introduced a contemporary dining option that accommodates people's preferences to have a variety of unique dishes for friends or family to enjoy.

Due to the recent cyclone devastation in Hawkes Bay, the food truck is involved with a fundraiser called ‘Stronger than the Storm’, which is raising funds to support the volunteer services of Havelock, who played an important role in the cyclone response.

Piku’s restaurant also collaborated with Al Brown’s ‘Cooking up a Storm’ event, which raised almost $4500 for the Mayoral relief funds.

While the recent events are a sure hurdle, the people of Havelock have come together to move past it. However, Harper deems the real challenge within the industry will be attracting the next generation into the hospitality world as a viable career option.

Europe and North America are often hotspots for this line of work, while in New Zealand, there is a scarcity of eager individuals to move into this world. Harper believes that improving pay rates and allowing for flexibility will solve this issue.

Despite these challenges, Harper and the team at Piku are constantly striving to produce innovations to combat these recent matters. The release of Piku’s Gin, made by ImaGination in Waikanae using Hawks Bay-grown Yuzu, and contacting Zenkuro in Queenstown to produce Piku’s ‘Sleeping Giant’ Sake are two new additions for customers to enjoy.

Harper encourages those interested in this sector to take opportunities and broaden their knowledge when possible, particularly if the end goal is to take over your own business.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other industry folks; most want to see those around us do well.”

Piku’s food truck operates at many large public events in Hawkes Bay and is available to cater private events. The restaurant and cocktail bar is open six days a week for lunch and dinner in the heart of Havelock North.