Fush is now one of the few restaurants in Aotearoa to have a bilingual te reo Māori and English menu, with every item listed in both languages, as well as popular colloquialisms.
Groundswell of support
The response to his integration of te reo into Fush operations was so positive, Anton decided to hold a beginners’ te reo lesson at the restaurant, free of charge. The aim was to attract “maybe 20 people”, however when over 3,000 people indicated their interest on Facebook, the venue was hastily changed to the auditorium at Christchurch Boys’ High. Over 800 people attended on the first night.
“The huge level of interest from people of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life showed that people genuinely wanted to learn more about our culture. But it also put the responsibility back on me to do whatever I could do build on this interest and make te reo accessible for all people, not just Māori.
“Te reo Māori is on the cusp of survival. Since the Native Schools Act was passed in 1867, te reo Māori has taken a beating. Although the Act never outlawed speaking te reo Māori, it made English the language of education and so anyone speaking the language was punished. So, by the time the Māori Language Act of 1987 came around, te reo Māori was like a patient in ICU. Since then, the language has come in and out of consciousness and it feels like, at last, the language has left the hospital and is back in the community like a long lost friend, saying kia ora to everyone. I believe we need to be sharing our language and culture, and engaging as many people as we can to ensure it is not only surviving but thriving for future generations.” Anton has now taught thousands of people basic te reo Māori around Aotearoa. He also has plans to scale Fush and open more eateries in 2020.