Flip Grater a slice of Paris
Musician, songwriter, foodie, and entrepreneur somewhat describe Flip Grater. Metropol writer Neville Idour discovers she is so much more.
With multiple international tours and five albums under her belt, musician, singer, and songwriter
Flip Grater has a dedicated following. Add on vegan foodie, Grater Goods Café/restaurant owner, food manufacturer and wholesaler, astute business woman, author, and columnist, and even her hats are wearing hats.
Personally Flip hasn’t played in a while, although she is opening for Tim Finn in September on his New Zealand tour.
These days, she’s mostly busy juggling work and family. “I have one daughter, but if I had any more it would be harder,” she admits.
“Starting a business with a toddler at home was a challenge. While I have often felt stretched, I am really proud of what I have built, and I am very passionate about what we are trying to achieve in the big scheme of things.
“We want to change the way people eat and give them wonderful gourmet options, so for me it is worth all the hard work.”
Flip definitely knows all about hard work, and facing challenges head-on. One of five children, proudly home birthed in Christchurch, she kick-started her music career by learning to play guitar when she was 10, “mostly so I could sing”.
“My father was in the church band, so we played around the house and sang a bit. I was frustrated with the range of my voice and that I couldn’t sing along with so many songs. I thought that made me a bad singer. I really played the guitar so I could write songs suitable for my voice.”
Growing up she became well known on the New Zealand music scene in her 20s, for her music, and for collecting recipes for her first recipe book ‘The Cookbook Tour NZ’.
Travel to Europe followed, touring several countries, playing shows and collecting recipes from audiences for her second recipe book, ‘The Cookbook Tour Europe’. “After that, I knew Europe was where I wanted to be, to use music as a way to travel and live in a world where I was less comfortable than I was here in New Zealand.”
Flip’s non-stop international and domestic music touring lasted about 15 years, by which time she decided living in Paris was an easier way to get to all the destinations she wanted to play regularly.
“I had brought on French and German labels and wanted to be recording over there, so Paris it was for three years.
“I was fortunate when I was touring. I met and worked with some incredible musicians of different genres. At the same time, I cared about meeting good people and having great connections and experiences with other people, rather than networking and going into a room and seeing who is of use to you.
“I think when you are coming from a heartfelt place, hopefully that leads to opportunities that are genuine.”
Her big encounter was with husband-to-be Youssef Iskrane, at 2am on a cold September night in Paris in 2012. “I was recording my album Pigalle. He was working in a famous jazz bar, one of the few that offered dinner and show tickets. As Montmartre closed, my bass player let out his famous hearty chuckle, lifted a finger in the air and said ‘I know a place – the party will continue’.
“We traipsed up and over the hill in Montmartre with our double bass and inappropriate footwear and arrived to Youssef’s smiling face leaning over a balcony. He threw down a key, invited us up, immediately poured a round of whiskies and we settled in. There nestled into a deep armchair surrounded by stacks of old books and Moroccan trinkets we discussed the meaning of life and made plans to save the world.”
Youssef and Flip were married in 2015 on her father’s farm in Amberley. They’d planned to return to Paris directly afterwards, but “quickly got pregnant with our daughter Anais, and wanted to have her in New Zealand, so ended up staying.”
Her new domestic life and breeder-based fears for the future had her wanting to do more for the planet than writing sad songs. “I wanted to promote plant-based eating fulltime,” she explains, “so we rented a small kitchen where we now are in Sydenham and cooked there three days a week.”
“There I was, by myself, making sausages and handing sandwiches out the window. The demand grew so rapidly that within a year we had taken over the whole building, with retail and hospitality space, and now have a factory in Woolston just behind the Tannery, all with a team of 17 staff. For us it is like a little slice of Paris in industrial Sydenham.”
After Covid-19 lockdown, Flip started live shows at Grater Goods, at a time when it was difficult for local musicians to find a space to perform.
“Cary Caldwell from Music 212 organised them. We kept them to a 30 person limit so we could keep people spaced and safe at any of the Covid-19 levels. It was a special time with many incredible shows.”
Interestingly the Grater Goods name is a reference to Flip’s grandfather, whose family business was Grater and Sons, a butchery in Sunderland, England dating back to the early 20th century. Flip’s team manufactures vegan meats, cheeses, pates, and premium artisan products that are 100% plant-based, and sold throughout New Zealand.
Expansion is on the cards, with the company raising $400,000 through Crowd Funding to help drive exports into the Australian market, via Victoria, with the focus on Melbourne.
And writing? Flip has compiled another beautiful recipe book, ‘The Grater Good’, crammed with healthy vegan options. “It has sold really well, and shows that there is an appetite for delicious vegan food.
“The main goal is not necessarily that the recipes are healthy, although they are. It is that they are comforting and delicious, because I want people to have the pleasure of plant-based food rather than feel they are having a healthy salad on the side.”