When Dona and Hemantha Vidanage, with their daughter Lisara, moved from Sri Lanka to New Zealand seven years ago, they had a dream of one day starting their own business.
That goal has come to fruition with the opening of Fish Nets at The Grange, in Warkworth.
“Life was very hard for us for the first year,” Dona says. “I wondered if we would even survive. We didn’t understand how to rent a house and we couldn’t turn to family or friends for help. It was tough. We finally found a tiny one-bedroom apartment.”
Dona ended up studying and qualifying as a chef. For the last six years they lived in Matakana and Warkworth, where Dona worked first as a chef in Omaha and then as a sous chef at the Puhoi Cheese Cafe. Hemantha worked at Summerset and RSS Plastics, before it moved to Hamilton.
“Fish Nets is only a small business, but we already have plans to open another shop and one day, I would love to own and run my own seafood restaurant,” Dona says.
The business is already getting rave reviews on social media.
“We want to give people good, honest food. I think if you do that, then you just naturally become popular. As a chef, I’ve learned what Kiwis like and that’s what I am going to give them, whether it is fish and chips or fresh snapper burgers.”
The couple say that they are grateful for the personal and professional support of the people they have met in NZ, particularly their neighbours.
“We came to NZ because we heard it was peaceful, with beautiful scenery and lovely people, and we have not been disappointed.”
While the couple aren’t expecting to have too many holidays in the near future, they say they love travelling and look forward to exploring more of New Zealand.