Jorge at home

A Chilean’s legacy

Jorge Sandoval has been many things in his time. From cabinet maker to international cycling promoter, his story is one of heartbreak, triumph and unwavering determination.

From an early age Jorge developed a love of cycling as the Tour of Chile rode through his home town of Tome, a small city by the sea. Jorge would follow the riders and listen to their languages as he dreamt of riding amongst them. Although his family was very poor and his country was in political upheaval, he describes his childhood as a time of “happiness and beauty”.

History in his handsHis childhood was to be cut short when he was denounced as a traitor for crimes against the dictator Augusto Pinochet at age 19. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp where he was tortured and bore witness to the murders of a number of his fellow prisoners. Unbeknown to the military, one of the camp guards was Jorge’s own brother, and both had to remain silent to ensure the other’s survival.

After a year of imprisonment he was released to his family, and as he left the camp he smuggled out a small wooden sign a fellow prisoner had made, to remember his ordeal by. Fearing for his life, Jorge decided to escape illegally to Argentina with his pregnant fiancée. After a short time in Argentina, the pair chose to immigrate to New Zealand, and on 26th November 1976 they landed in Wellington.

There wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country.

After just four days Jorge was put to work in a factory for 12 hours a day, without knowing a word of English. He says the language gap caused workers to treat him with extreme prejudice: “because you can’t speak the language, they think you’re a dumb ass, they think you’re ignorant”. Jorge describes these years as the toughest: “there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country”.

Jorge found support for refugees at the time “non-existent”, and simple tasks like finding sugar in the supermarket would take Jorge hours. Jorge and his friends had to resort to tasting things in the aisles, and one of his friends mistakenly fed his family dog food, as he thought it was cheap ham.

Jorge reacts to hearing about an accident during a raceIt was only when Jorge joined a Wellington cycling club that he began to meet new people and learn the English language. “I had to adapt to New Zealand because New Zealand never adapted to me,” he says. Jorge proved to have a talent for the sport and within a couple of years he was selected to join the New Zealand cycling team, and began touring around the world.

In 1988 the team was to ride the Tour of Chile, providing Jorge with the chance to return to his home town and fulfil his childhood dream. When Jorge arrived, armed guards met him at the terminal and took him for questioning. He had no idea if they knew who he was or if they would imprison him again, but he was able to lie and enter undetected. He describes the ride through his town as one of the proudest moments of his life.

But Jorge’s influence off the road was to be his greatest contribution to the sport, and in 1988 Jorge launched the first Tour of Wellington. Before this, Wellington had had no tours or significant cycling events, prompting vigorous complaints from Jorge.

“One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.” A quarter of a century later, it’s now the biggest international cycling event in the country, attracting riders from all over the world.

One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.

His contribution to the sport became clear when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 2006, for both the men’s and women’s professional cycling tours. When he returned to Chile with the medal he was named as an honorary citizen, by the very man who had denounced him as a criminal all those years ago.

In 2011 the tour was renamed the New Zealand Cycle Classic and moved to Palmerston North, as Jorge considered Manawatu “the perfect cycle destination” with its smooth roads and stunning hill climbs. Jorge thinks cycling in the area is improving, but it pales in comparison with other countries where it is “second only to religion”.

Jorge, still proud of where he came fromHowever, Jorge describes a darker side to cycling in New Zealand, as drivers’ attitudes to cyclists are very poor. “I’ve never allowed my children on the road, because of what I have seen.” To improve the sport, Jorge feels drivers and cyclists need to try to understand each other better and share the road.

When Jorge had saved up enough money, he was able to bring both of his brothers to New Zealand to work. His brothers’ plight highlights the employment problems in Chile, as both brothers were out of work despite being accountancy and teaching professionals. The two brothers now own their own businesses and all three visit Chile once a year, as well as sending money every month to other family members.

Jorge feels that the country is beautiful, the schools and hospitals are excellent, and that life in New Zealand is full of possibilities. “A lot of immigrants come here and they are capable of a lot more, but you’ve got to work hard, don’t take no for an answer,” says Jorge.

“This country has done a lot for me, a lot. I’m not going to be here forever, but I hope that when I’m gone, people remember that this Chilean refugee came to this country and his legacy is here.”

Hester Guy and her team

Creating a new taste

Hester Guy is one of New Zealand’s most recognised food personalities, driven by her love of and dedication to cooking. Her reputation has been built on years of work in the industry, developing catering companies, teaching cooking skills in people’s homes, and presenting her own television programme, “Hester Guy Cooks”.

Beautiful food at Create Eatery“I’ve always been interested in cooking. My mother was an extremely good cook and it runs in the family. All my cousins cook, and food is the main topic of conversation.”

Born just north of Levin in Koputaroa, Hester discovered a love of cooking that was destined to inspire her travelling. Having always wanted to attend cooking school, upon
completing university Hester decided to leave New Zealand and train at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in London. Once she had completed her course she travelled, always with food in mind, until she returned to New Zealand to start up what was to become a successful catering business in Wellington.

“I then married a farmer and came to live in Shannon, where there was little call for my services.” Instead Hester started travelling New Zealand, demonstrating cooking to groups of women. “At the time nouvelle cuisine was changing the face of cooking. Cooking was becoming lighter, seasonal and cleaner in flavour.

Create Eatery“At the same time I had seen how the chicken industry had changed and customers were able to buy new ready-to-cook cuts of chicken. I thought this same theory could surely be
applied to lamb.”

In response to this idea Hester and her husband began to develop new lamb cuts, a project that was launched through Woolworths. It took time for the concept of trim lamb to be accepted, as it was a far cry from the traditional roast meat. Hester feels that there is still further potential for cheaper cuts of lamb to be used for more ethnic-styled cooking.

This innovation gave Hester the opportunity to do a cooking show on television. “I really wanted people to learn to cook and handle products and understand the basic principles. We all have to eat, so why not cook to the very best of your ability?”

Food projects and developments have been a theme throughout Hester’s life. These have included working with Massey University to research the sous-vide cooking process, which involves very slow cooking of vacuum-sealed food and is now a process embraced by many chefs. She has also developed a successful range of salads and chilled meals for supermarkets.

Natural produce at its finestHester has now opened, in conjunction with her catering business, a sophisticated and friendly café in Palmerston North, which focuses on serving those who want healthy alternative takeaways. Create Eatery came from the desire to have a small takeout venue that used the very best ingredients in all its cooking. Hester and her team produce freshly prepared gourmet meals daily, as well as frozen meals that make for easy home dinners, a range that she plans to expand in response to its popularity.

Recognising that she is not necessarily good at managing people, Hester employs people around her who complement her strengths. With her talented chef Liz Parkes, front of house personality Douglas Begg and the rest of her team, Hester thinks that the food they present is “stylish and unpretentious, but delicious”.

“Cooking good food is not difficult, but it takes care, love and an awareness of the food you’re handling. When people eat your food, you watch their faces, and if their eyes light up you’ve got it.”

Ian Harmann

In pursuit of an audience

Ian Harman is a man of many talents – magician, dancer, choreographer, costume designer and director, to name only a few. With a CV that is “ridiculously long”, Ian has become a figurehead within the performing arts community of Palmerston North, designing costumes for Centrepoint, directing for Abbey Theatre, and creating and starring in his own cabaret and burlesque shows.

A sense of devotion to his audience has been a common trend throughout Ian’s career. In his first experience of theatre, as Jack Horner in a school play at age five, Ian tells how he felt “this big amount of love and support” from the crowd. “From there I was wrecked for life really,” and Ian has been pursuing the audience’s adoration ever since.

Ian Harman“My focus is always that the audience has a great experience, and that they are comfortable, or at least delightedly shocked, by what happens; that they are entertained, or feel something.”

In recent years Ian’s focus has been on burlesque, and his hugely popular performance group The Boom Boom Room has performed all around New Zealand. As he describes it, burlesque is “a lovely transition of cabaret and vaudeville and magic and slapstick and old-style theatre. It’s very empowering, and it’s not like any other kind of performance I’ve done in my life”. Even more importantly, Ian feels it is an art form that really connects with its audience.

“With burlesque the gratification you get from your audience is really different. Burlesque isn’t just about taking your clothes off, it’s about revealing something emotional or physical about yourself. Even if you don’t take your clothes off, you’re very naked up there. I think the audience appreciates that vulnerability.”

Burlesque isn’t just about taking your clothes off, it’s about revealing something emotional or physical about yourself.

When he isn’t touring the country with his burlesque troupe, Ian is happy at home in Palmerston North. His only major irritation with his adopted home town is “that I get people asking me when I’m going to leave”. People often suggest that he needs to move in order to succeed in the arts, but Ian thinks that the opposite is true.

“We’re an incredibly cultural city, and I think sometimes Palmerston North doesn’t actually realise what talent we have, and how good the theatre here is. There is an incredible number of talented and creative people in this town, and it’s supported my arts career for a really long time, which is pretty amazing in itself.”

Ian HarmannWhile he has made a career in the performing arts, Ian assures that he “isn’t a nut about it”, and that there is a separation between the characters people see on stage and him in real life. “It doesn’t rule my private life, which I think people are surprised about. Most people meet me as a character, and most of the characters I play are incredibly flamboyant and out there, and then they meet me as a person and I’m reasonably quiet. If I’m at a party I’m usually in a corner having a chat with someone about something serious, not dancing on a table, which is what my characters would be doing. I feel that I’m disappointing people on a regular basis, because I’m not quite what they expected.”

Despite the clash of private versus stage personas, Ian knows he will never leave the stage. “In any job or career I think there are moments when you think, ‘It’s got to be easier than this’. But actually I’ve been doing this for so long I can’t imagine doing anything else. That’s my curse, I’m creative.”

Mike West and family

West is definitely the right direction on air

As the host of More FM’s breakfast show Mike West in the Morning, Mike West is a household name, with more than 35 years in the industry. But behind the public figure lies a devoted husband and father.

From the age of 14 Mike knew he wanted a career in radio, inspired by former DJ Kevin Black, who West describes as “the funniest guy on the planet”. However, getting a job on radio was no small feat and West describes hounding every radio station in the country, itching for an opportunity.

Mike WestAt age 17, Radio Windy gave him that opportunity, and Mike moved to Wellington to do the Midnight to Dawn show, which he describes as a terrifying and thrilling experience for a “young naive boy from Palmerston North”. Back then, Mike was known by his birth name, Blain Yarrall, and only received
his radio name after a boss thought his name wasn’t going to cut it on radio.

When Mike returned to Manawatu he walked into a Cook Street dairy, not knowing he was about to meet his future wife. “The owner of the dairy told me that Amanda had to go and put her head inside the freezer just to cool down after seeing me. I thought that was so funny and a bit cute,” says Mike. By pure chance, they crossed paths again while Mike was broadcasting for a fundraiser, and the rest is history.

The births of Mike’s sons, Jason and Sam, have had a lasting impact on the veteran broadcaster: “all my priorities in life seemed to automatically change from that point and family became the most important thing”. From a very young age, Mike’s children would ring him while he was at work, and he would answer the calls on air, describing one situation when a three-year-old Jason commanded Mike to bring home more doughnuts.

“I’ve had a few job offers over the years, including one from Sydney, but I’ve always liked living in Manawatu,”

Both Sam and Jason have pursued careers in radio, with Sam working with his father in the promotions and marketing department of More FM, and Jason working with Sydney-based Nova 969. “I guess they had a lot of fun with me working in radio, and they saw the fun that I had, and they decided they wanted to get into it too.

“I’ve had a few job offers over the years, including one from Sydney, but I’ve always liked living in Manawatu,” says Mike.

Mike WestMike says the schools, the lifestyle and the people are the reasons why he raised his kids here, and why he and Amanda
continue to live here.

Late last year Mike feared for his career as he began having trouble with his voice. “It was like someone was turning down the volume, and by the evening I could hardly speak.” Acting on the advice of a friend, Mike had it checked and a small cyst was found on his vocal chords, which was removed in October last year, giving the broadcaster his voice back.

For those aspiring to be on radio, Mike says that the key to entering the industry is getting hands-on experience with a station, getting trained, and having a competitive attitude.

“Life’s what you make it. If you’re going to sit around on the couch and watch TV all day you’re going to get bored, and you’re going to think this is a boring place, but if you get up, find some things to do, it’s a great place.”