Cook, ceramicist, pop-up professional – there's very little that Ruby White AKA Miss Changy can't do. We sat down with her to have a chat about some of her current projects in the world of food and art.
What is it that you do?
I own and run a cafe in Pakuranga, Small Fry at Te Tuhi. I also make ceramics and host pop-up events under the name Miss Changy when I have the time.
What made you want to set up your business?
Miss Changy came about during my last year at art school. It was a project I’d started mainly out of boredom but it really took off. I was hosting pop-up lunches and dinners at my house, eventually it got to the point where I decided to start hosting them at cafes around Auckland. After I graduated from Elam I focused more on making ceramics.
The opportunity to open my cafe Small Fry at Te Tuhi came about quite naturally. I wasn’t actively looking to open a place but Te Tuhi approached me and it felt like the right space and time to get stuck into a big project.
Are you from Auckland originally or did you move here from somewhere else? + reasons for staying or moving?
I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. I moved to Auckland with my mum when I was 17. I had considered moving back to Melbourne to complete university but Auckland Uni offered a conjoint I was interested in at the time (psych and fine art). It’s now been eight years and feel like Auckland is my home. I’d like to move back to Melbourne one day, but I’m happy in New Zealand right now. I feel like Auckland is in a really interesting place with food and I want to stick around to see how it develops.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Auckland?
It’s a young city. Unlike Melbourne where it’s completely saturated there’s still room to grow and experiment here. It’s exciting to witness and feel like you are playing a part in shaping the changing identity of a place. It's a double edged sword that Auckland is small, but it's so easy to meet new people, especially in the food industry. It's really cool being able to meet people in Auckland that I admire. It feels like a big family and everyone wants to help each other and collaborate.
If you had a day off tomorrow to do whatever you wanted in Auckland what would you do?
If I had a day off tomorrow I would probably force myself to go to my studio to make some ceramics for an upcoming exhibition I’m working on. Or I would do some recipe testing for a dinner I’ve got planned with Sam Low later this month. I’m a hermit! Staying at home on sunny days is a guilty pleasure...
If you weren’t a cook/ceramicist what would you be?
Becoming a cook and a ceramicist came from art school. Had I chosen my other conjoint option, Law and Psychology, I’d probably be in that field somewhere, though most likely I would’ve failed at law and gone to art school anyway..
I feel like my skills are quite niche and no one will give me a job! (That logic played a bigger part in opening a cafe than you might expect). None of the opportunities I’ve had since leaving university would have happened had I not started Miss Changy, which is scary to think about. I don’t want to be cooking forever though, I’d like to get more into food or recipe writing. Or starting up a workshop that’s geared towards fine art grads who no longer have access to the facilities we had at university.
Who in the world would you most like to have dinner with and what would you eat?
I’m paralysed by choice! There are so many people that I admire and want to meet (and to have dinner with them would probably cripple me socially)… I honestly can’t choose. The only person I can definitively say I’d want to have dinner with is my dad. He passed away when I was 19. We used to cook together a lot but I’ve come a long way since then. Dinner would be homemade pasta with yum as Aussie crustaceans like yabbies and marron, with loads of garlic and butter and a really delicious pinot gris. Super rich dark chocolate tart for dessert with a side of Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares, lol. I actually love that show.