Cooking up culture and comfort at Young George

25 Mar 2024
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Ōwairaka restaurant Young George has become a staple for locals to enjoy a sando, coffee and conversation as the neighbourhood grows.

Couples lean into conversation across long wooden tables as the sun shines in Ōwairaka.

Nearby, a toddler winds their race car through a circuit track while a poodle gobbles his puppucino.

“I’d like this to be a place that everybody, no matter your culture or background, can get into and feel comfortable enjoying together,” says Joshua Young.

That place is Young George, his restaurant and a part of the reason he’s come to be known simply as ‘Young’ in this Mount Roskill neighbourhood.

“What makes a culture is like a dish, you know – when there’s all these great elements to it the flavour really pops.”

It makes sense, then, that the way to unite the elements of a neighbourhood’s culture is by bringing them together over a meal. Or, more specifically, a sando.

These iconic Japanese sandwiches are quite literally the bread and butter of Young George – named for both Young and his close friend who opened the business together in 2020.

On good terms, Young and George went their separate ways in 2021 but – fitting with the values of a space created to encourage togetherness – the name had already stuck.

Young has run the restaurant since and, in a place like Ōwairaka where locals come from wide-ranging backgrounds and cultures, he might just be one of the best people to help it celebrate its diversity.

Born to a Fijian-Chinese father and American-born Pākeha mother, Young grew up in Fiji where he trained as a chef, specialising in Japanese cuisine. At 18, he moved to Auckland to pursue his career further and soon landed in Ōwairaka.

“I’m a fusion chef I guess, because I’m so mixed-up culture-wise,” he says with a laugh.

“I always like to kind of cater to the broadest base I can. So it’s a very small menu but, if you look at it, it’s kind of trying to hit everybody you can.”

A chicken katsu sando evolved from his Japanese cooking foundations before a vegetarian option entered the mix, and the pork sando takes the title of “wild card,” with a bit of spice and different flavour combinations for the adventurous eater.

From those creations, Young has built a loyal base of locals he doesn’t like to call customers.

“There’s no way I would’ve been able to make it without – you call them customers but they’re 100 percent like family,” he says.

And that family is set to grow, with hundreds more homes due to be built over several years in Ōwairaka as part of Roskill Development.

“I’ve always really loved the neighbourhood,” he says.

“The potential is so clear here. I guess I’m worried a little bit about the density but, in saying that, this place has the best crack at it with the amount of greenspace and walkways designed into it.

“So as long as development remains thoughtful, it’s a no-brainer. It’s going to be one of the best new suburbs in the city, for sure.”

Find Young George on Facebook, and stop by at 86A Hendon Avenue, Ōwairaka, from Tuesday-Sunday, 7am-2pm.


 Sando photo credit: Yuki












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