It was the smile that first got me in. The young couple gave customers such a warm welcome that of course we had to buy their food, even though it looked different: arepas, the crunchy pocket bread stuffed with filling that’s the most common food of Venezuela and Colombia. Their stall, Fiery Deli, became one of our favourite market brunch haunts.
Two children later, Eric and Trish Perez have expanded their business from a market stall to a food truck, a move to The Kitchens, Robina and Westfield Chermside.
This family was always going to be near the sea. It was inevitable, given their heritage, but when we asked Eric how he came to be on the Gold Coast, he described a more circuitous route than we expected!
“We’re from a family of seven children. Our mother is German, our father Venezuelan. After living in Germany until I was ten years old, we moved to Venezuela. When I was old enough, I sailed to the US, where I trained as a chef, then we took off sailing again for several years, surfing wherever we could: from Miami through Panama to the Society Islands, through the Pacific to New Zealand, Tonga, then Sydney,” he smiles wryly, looking at his wife. “I stayed, but Kevin kept sailing for a few more years. Now here we are.”
The café brings together a healthy combination of Venezuelan and surf culture food. Arepas are central to the menu. Made on maize or corn meal and cooked to order, arepas are naturally gluten free, with no preservatives or additives. Filled with your choice of shredded beef or free-range chicken, locally-sourced salad vegetables, onion, rice, black beans, scrambled organic eggs and bacon, capsicum, avocado, fresh herbs and spices or any combination of the above, an arepa makes a healthy, flavour-packed, filling meal which is easy to grab in two hands.
It’s food which fits neatly into the Gold Coast lifestyle: adaptable to our diet and easy to eat on the go; affordable yet nutritious; gluten, dairy and gluten-free, with fillings suitable for vegans, vegetarians, meat lovers or those with food intolerance.
The menu slowly expanded, including nachos, house made cakes, freshly squeezed orange juice and protein smoothies, Blackboard coffee, organic tea, as well as plated food, such as the traditional Pabellion Criollo: a Venezuelan plate of rice, beans and shredded beef with a side of cooked plantain bananas.
They may have settled on the shore, but the Perez brothers can’t stand still for long.
“We plan to recycle food scraps, have fluoro-free water (now we have filtered water), and slushies made from watermelon and pineapple juice. No added sugar,” Kevin says.
In the meantime, there’s a lot to enjoy: fresh, nutritious meals, juices and coffee, live music on the weekends, as well as bucketloads of enthusiasm and good humour. It’s not just me (the couple’s arepa groupie from their ‘before kids’ days) that gets the joy. Fiery Deli is a multicultural haven, with the world-travelling brothers and Ido the barista speaking fluent Spanish, English, German and French – friendly faces whose welcome shines on tourists and locals alike.
The Kitchens, Robina Town Centre, Robina Town Centre Drive, Robina; Ph: 07 5562 0627; Food Truck 0438 142 438 Open: Sun-Fri: 11am–3pm | 5pm-8:30pm Sat: 11am–9pm