Award-winning Ode chef Lucas Parkinson is closing his Wanaka business for good but insists he is quitting while he is ahead.
The doors will close at the Post Office Lane eatery on Sunday, August 29, after Mr Parkinson and filmmaker Mark Ihaia complete a full feature film documentary project.
Mr Parkinson and his family moved to Auckland a month ago to be with family and restore health.
Staff will hold the fort in the meantime.
“It has been a tough run, huge highs, devastating lows and it’s all taken its toll on my mental and physical health,” Mr Parkinson said.
He and his wife Larissa established Ode in 2017 after more than a decade of experience working for some of the top chefs in New Zealand and Australia.
Mr Parkinson said the venture had just four bookings on opening night.
After the couple consulted marketing adviser Arna Craig and tweaked a few things, Ode’s reputation quickly grew.
In 2018 and 2019 Ode won Cuisine Good Food Awards and received one “Hat”, the southern hemisphere equivalent of one Michelin star.
A fire in 2019 closed the restaurant for a time.
Soon after the successful relaunch, Mr and Mrs Parkinson were knocked again when a key employment relationship broke down.
They were back on their feet in 2020, but the Covid-19 lockdown forced another closure.
The hospitality industry had taken a huge hit from Covid. Tension levels in the industry were high, other closures were prevalent and staff shortages were worsening as workers took other jobs or struggled to renew visas, Mr Parkinson said.
He said he paid staff a living wage but had become “increasingly embarrassed” about what he could pay and some weeks did not pay himself.
Mr Parkinson said practical and financial assistance from his landlord, Kevin King, had got him through.
“Kevin is the greatest and nicest landlord I have ever come across .. He’s the sort of landlord who gives you hugs.”
But events had taken their toll and Mr Parkinson decided he had to let the lease go.
Initially, he had hoped to move Ode to another location but his anxiety was crippling and he needed to de-stress.
He would return to Wanaka on August 9 to complete the film project and wind things up.
The film would be a “postmortem release”, because he wanted to leave something behind that told the real story of how tough the hospitality industry could be.
Mr Parkinson said the closure would affect up to 10 people on the payroll and local suppliers.
Ode was financially stable, had a great team and steady custom, “so I am taking the wisdom of getting out while we are ahead”, he said.