Bad Brother’s top toasties

Since opening his sandwich store the week before Labour Weekend last year, Hata Puriri reckons he’s found his calling.

He’s the Bad Brother behind the sign down the lane and after growing up in the US, he knows a good sandwich when he sees one.

“There are heaps of regional sandwiches,” he says.

“California has their own scene, Utah has their own scene, East Coast has their own scene. One of my favourite places to go is a restaurant called The Hat in east LA, San Bernadino County. They do the best pastrami sandwiches you’ve ever had in your life. So yeah, I have a pretty big passion, not just for sandwiches, but I like real interesting food.”

“I love what the Latino community do in California and then I was like, what can I do? I really wanted to try something creative but I’m not talented in any of the arts.”

That was about a year ago and several things fell into place to make Bad Brother a reality.

“Annika (sister) and mum (Teresa of Roll Up fame) had closed Clover, and mum was thinking about giving the lease up. So I told mum, don’t give up the space.”

After leaving his previous job, where he’d worked for 14 years, he says “For the first time in my life I actually got to choose what I want to do as a vocation.”

“I kind of just naturally fell into everything else but this was something to push myself and be a creative outlet in a different way.”

After heaps of research into how to merge the best from the US with great local products, Bad Brother was born with half a dozen sandwich selections on offer, including the two top toasties, the barbecue brisket and the Reuben.

“The Reuben’s our most classic. I try and make it not super traditionally but with all the traditional ingredients; I’m really proud of that one. And with the brisket, I saw the beautiful bread that my baker was making and thought ‘what can I put on this’. I looked at pulled pork, but beef’s a little cheaper, has a lot more room for error and was simpler for me to do. And the flavours you can add to it are really easy. It’s been our busiest item for two months now.  None of the flavours get old and it ticks a lot of boxes for different tastes. And it’s flippin’ massive so you feel like you’re going to get value for money.”

While he’s loving what he’s doing, Hata is quick to acknowledge the help he’s received from whānau and friends.

“I’m very, very blessed and there’s not enough credit I can give to Annika and my mum for all the materials and the equipment they’d put together at Clover. It had 75% of what we needed; a huge headstart. Personally the hardest things were the organisation and the processes that I had to learn in the beginning. I really thought that I had it all in my brain, what I needed to do, but I realised that the cup was pretty empty, and it’s still pretty empty but it gets filled with a lot of wisdom and knowledge from my mum and (sister) Kiera; they’ve probably been my two biggest supports.”

And while there have been stressful times as he’s learned the ropes, he couldn’t be happier.

“This doesn’t even feel like a job. It’s really freeing. I don’t feel like I’m boxed in and I don’t feel like there’re limits. It’s so much more satisfying than the set tasks and the goals that I had to hit over and over in my last job. Like, if we don’t want to do something, let’s change it up, do something else.”

And Hata’s top tips for a tip top toastie?

“It’s all in the bread. The better the bread that you can get, it’s going to hide a lot of the sins of whatever you put inside. It’s the great equaliser. The key to a good toastie for me is toast your bread perfectly. Butter on your hot grill. If you just get a really beautiful cheese and really nice bread, 99% of the time you’re going to be stoked. So all the other fillings, whether it’s onion or meat or something else, is a bonus bro.”

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