It all started with
a love for good food
I guess it all starts with having a Polish dad Ryzard ‘Pat’ Patulski. He was one of the 733 Polish children that were given refuge here in New Zealand during World War 2. The intention was to stay to the end of the war before returning to their homeland, but when Poland was placed under Communist rule there was little point in returning. Most accepted the offer to become New Zealand citizens. But they did hold onto the Polish traditions and nothing more so than their love of Polish food.
It was to be a joke in our family that Dad would give us a gherkin instead of a dummy.
At primary school we only ever wanted garlic sandwiches – nothing else, just butter and raw garlic! It wasn’t until we were older that we realised why our mum used to make such a fuss. Despite being a Kiwi through and through, my fathers Polish heritage found its way into our family home and particularly into our food. We would always be pestering our Kiwi mum into making pierogy and Polish potato cakes (Placki Ziemniaczane). My godparents were Polish and Sunday lunches at their house were Polish feasts. Pickled cucumber, beetroot, dill and cucumber salad, sardines in tomato sauce, marinated herrings, kielbasa, sauerkraut and horseradish that every Polish family would grow.
Twenty years later and a passion to own my own business I started what is now Vetro – they were humble beginnings. Other than the usual challenges with starting a new business, Polish cuisine was not in fashion – a rethink was needed. Kiwis were changing their eating habits and the Mediterranean diet was trending. Jamie Oliver, Gordan Ramsey and Rick Stein were all showing us how to cook good healthy food simply and fast.
We shifted our focus to anchovies, olive oil, olives, pasta, tomatoes – what we kiwis now consider basic kitchen ingredients.
Vetro’s philosophy was to make these ‘basics’ accessible and affordable – this was the turning point and we’ve never looked back. People liked what we were doing and word quickly spread.
I haven’t lost my Polish roots and Vetro still sells sardines in tomato sauce, marinated herrings, sauerkraut, dill gherkins, horseradish – all those things my god parents put on for Sunday lunch. My kids love pierogy, pickled cucumber and kielbasa, but they won’t eat those garlic sandwiches.