Struggling to get a wedding ring leads a dishwasher to own a popular restaurant

'Oku taupotu 'i lalo ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

A Tongan man who overstayed his visa and struggled with his fiancé to get money to pay for their wedding ring now owns a popular restaurant in South Auckland.

Freddy Tu’akalau first got a break in his struggle after a friend who was about to return to Tonga asked if he could cover up a job he did as dishwasher in 1994.

The job was at the Mikano Restaurant and Bar, one of the top venues in New Zealand at the time.

Tu’akalau gave the job to his wife because her visa was still valid. He said he later could tell the job was too much for her and they swapped.

He was paid $7 an hour and after the three days he worked for the Mikano during the weekend he received $70.

They used the money to pay for a wedding ring so he could marry his wife.

He said the path they followed appeared to be easy at first, but was hard most of the time.

“I did my best every time I did this job especially when my managers asked if I could cover for a worker who could not work on Sunday,” Tu’akalau said. “I never said no.”

Dishwashing / Cooking

While doing the dish washing he was asked by the Mikano’s managers whether he would like to become a cook.

After he agreed, Mikano sent him to the Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School.

They also sent him to the AUT in 1996 where he completed a certificate in cooking.

“They just wanted me to get the certificate as I already had the experience,” Tu’akalau said.

The opportunity to study gave Tu’akalau another huge break.

He said Mikano paid for his study while he was overstaying his visa and gave him money he thought was huge at the time.

“I was lucky because at the time Immigration New Zealand was not so tough when immigrants enrolled in these courses,” Tu’akalau said.

He said his wages rose from $9 per hours to $18 an hour after his study.

Head chef

Tu’akalau said after he completed his education a vacancy for a head chef was advertised by the MKOP My Kind of Place and Time and Again, Xtreme in Botany. He applied and got the job.

“I was in charge of the restaurant for two years,” he said.

Tu’akalau said while he was at the top job he was happy, but at some stages he still struggled with English.

“My wife really knows this. I struggled to a point I felt I would quit,” Tu’akalau said.

“But I thought if I quit the job there was nothing else that could give me a living.”

His experience and profession included years of work at Government House in Epsom and the Hammerheads restaurants.

The Eight Roses

Now he owns the restaurant known in South Auckland as Eight Roses Cafe & Buffet, which stands for his eight children.

He said he was still working for the Mikano on a contract that will end in 2020 while his wife Katokakala looked after and managed their restaurant.

“The business was for my children. I thought I should have this because if I die the business should help them,” Tu’akalau said.

The difference between Eight Roses and Mikano was that Eight Roses had a buffet and Mikano had fine dining.

His restaurant at 13/225 Great South Road in Ōtahūhū was popular with Samoans, Fijians and the Tongans.

“Princess Pilolevu Tuita regularly dined here and some of the royals and nobility,” Tu’akalau said.

“Church leaders and Tongan MP Jenny Latu Salesa visited us and dined here.”

He said Eight Roses provided good island food with high quality but low prices.

He said comments from customers were encouraging.

“There is a problem with buffet dinner because I have to prepare the food and put them there and if no one turns up it was a loss to the business.

“But we are busy and that’s keep our financial position strong from time to time,” Tu’akalau said.”


  1. Ko e tangata Tonga ne ‘ova, faingata’a’ia he feinga ke ma’u ha mama ki he’ena mali, ‘oku ‘a’ana ha fale kai ‘iloa ‘i Saute ‘Aokalani he taimi’ ni.

    Ne na kamata mo hono mali ‘i ha fufulu tisi mo peleti ‘i he fale kai mo e pā ‘iloa ko e Mikano fakafuofua ki he 1994 ‘i ha vāhenga ko e tola ‘e $7 ki he houa.

    Hili hano ‘oange hano faingamālie ‘e he Mikano ke hū ai ‘o ako ne hiki hake ‘ene vahe ‘o tola ‘e $18 ki he houa pea ‘i he’ene fakakaukau’i e kaha’u ‘ene fānau’ ne ne iku fokotu’u ai ‘a e fale kai ‘iloa ‘i `Ōtāhūhū ko e Eight Roses ko e fakataipe ki he’ene fānau ‘e toko valu.

    Pehē ‘e Freddy Tu’akalau na’e fakafiefia ‘a e hala ne ne fou hake ai pea ‘i he taimi tatau ne ‘i ai hono ngaahi pole ‘o mei si’i ‘ene kātaki ‘o ne tukuange ‘a e ngāue’.

    Ko e lahi taha e palopalema’ ko ‘ene faingata’a’ia he lea fakapālangi ka ne fai pe ‘o ne ikuna’i.


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