No, that is not a picture of this week’s installment of the Weekend Name Drop. But his preference for me using the photo of his book cover tells us something about the man himself. It is quite the image, isn’t it? Meet Steve Braunias
Name: Steve Braunias
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Best known for: Multiple award winning writer including the 2009 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Literary fellowship, the 2010 CLL Non-Fiction Award; he has won awards for covering sport, crime, and food; he is currently well known for his NZ Herald series, The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road.
My connection: Just to show how poorly read I still am in this country, I first heard mention of Steve only this year. My friend, writer/artist, A.D. Thomas, told me about a piece he was writing for a course, inspired by Steve’s On My Way to the Border. About a month later, I learned about the Surrey Hotel Steve Braunias Memorial Writers Residency Award in association with the Spinoff via a tweet from VUP Publisher, Fergus Barrowman. I applied immediately. After I was shortlisted for the award, I engaged in some conversation with Steve on Twitter. Later in the week, I listened to Steve on Jesse Mulligan’s programme and was delighted to hear my name announced for second prize. So was my wife when I told her Steve wrote the series, The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road. “He’s that guy?!” she said. Since then, Steve and I have corresponded by e-mail.
Inspiration for this writer: I’ve enjoyed chatting with Steve on Twitter. He’s a Twitter afficianado. He’s witty and seems to be living right there in the current of affairs in this country. I completed the Surrey residency this past week, and Steve was very supportive during my writing time, responding to my e-mail updates around word count with encouragement and advice. Curious when I first met him, I listened to his interview on the Radio New Zealand series, Home Invasion (see below) and was probably most fascinated to learn he’s never driven a car. I liked that. If I ever live in a city, I might try living without a car. Though I’ll probably never live in a city. I also enjoy Steve’s live e-mail interviews on Spinoff. Lately, he’s captured insights from literary canonite and poet laureate, CK Stead; book distributor extraordinaire, Paul Greenberg; and celebrated poet of the moment, Hera Lyndsay Bird. Steve’s right there, swimming in the current.
Why you should check him out and share with others: Many people are talking about Steve’s column, The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road. You can read a sample below. Not your average review of eateries, Steve is reviewing all 55 fine dining options along a three kilometre stretch in Henderson, Auckland. In New Zealand political and culture commentary, Steve’s “The Dude” and is known for his wit, humour, and balanced criticism. Simon Sweetnam called him, “New Zealand’s best writer of political satire, our best observer.” Reviewing Madmen in the NZ Herald, John McCrystal wrote, “It’s doubtful any other journalist working in New Zealand could have captured it so clearly, dealt with the personalities so fairly.”
Sample of work:
From Episode 6 of Steve’s NZ Herald series, The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road, a review of Nando’s Chicken (My wife tells me I’ve eaten there too).
The man who ate Lincoln Rd is going to come right out and say Nando’s Chicken is the best chicken there is. It’s chicken, Jim, but not as we know it. It’s beyond chicken. It’s the immaculate chicken.
It makes KFC chicken and Texas Chicken chicken taste and look and even feel like something not quite chicken. Those jokers are serving cow or crow or rope in comparison to Nando’s Chicken chicken.
I really like Nando’s Chicken. I really like the one on Lincoln Rd. It’s got tables, with cutlery, and a choice of sauces. The service is friendly and helpful, and they even have big bottles of water for the table. It’s actually a restaurant. It’s like Antoines or Depot or The Grill by The Unbearable Sean Connolly, except it’s better than those dumps. It’s class.
But what a long, strange trip it’s been for Nando’s in New Zealand! There have been troubles. They have suffered. Things began well, though, when the first Nando’s opened in 2000, in that great social laboratory of Auckland, Glenfield.
Punters were entranced by the South African franchise with its funky Mozambique cooking and its totemic bottles of hot Peri Peri sauce.
It went off – at its height there were 31 Nando’s franchises throughout New Zealand – but then the wheels came off. Five stores were liquidated, two permanently. And then the franchisor itself went into liquidation.
Things started turning around again in 2014, under new management, which poured money into the brand. A new 150-seater was opened in Queen St, and the one in Lincoln Rd was renovated late last year.
Here’s Steve, himself, interviewed on the RNZ series, Home Invasion:
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.