‌City‌ ‌dwellers‌ ‌cook‌ ‌up‌ ‌pasta‌ ‌paradise‌

No more lecture theatres for Run Rabbit co-owner Gary O’Neill who now makes fine quality pasta in outback Tarras.

When much of your life for 35 years has been city bustle, corporate career and apartment living, waking up to birdsong out the back of rural Tarras feels too good to be true for Gary and Brenda O’Neill.

And it gets better… instead of commuting bumper to bumper for 90 minutes to work through a Middle Eastern gridlock they now just walk a few steps to their purpose-built pasta kitchen where their gleaming machines await another day’s production.

The couple started Run Rabbit in October last year, making pasta and sauces to sell at markets, and now online. Brenda said they had found the Tarras community to be a mix of people with amazing histories and talents. All had been very supportive and welcoming.

Run Rabbit recently joined a new online directory called The Good – Cromwell Produce Market, alongside over 20 other unique local businesses delivering to the area. Part of Connect Cromwell’s website, ‘The Good’ features wine, picnic hampers, honey, nuts, bakery goods, preserves, olive oil and now fresh pasta.

“Now we are doing mailbox pasta deliveries and we can’t believe that we are driving around this beautiful place for ‘work’,” Brenda said. 

After a long search at a time when property prices were climbing by the week, Brenda, a communications consultant, found the former Ardgour Valley community hall on a solo recce.  She headed back to the Middle East, the couple sealed the deal and began to plan their big move.

“We arrived in the Ardgour in the late afternoon of May 28, 2018, to a house Gary had only ever seen in pictures. I had a very anxious few minutes following him around, hoping he liked it.”

He did, fortunately, and despite being passionate home cooks rather than professionals, the pair launched Run Rabbit.

“The name comes from the history of our home – from the 1950s to 70s it was owned by the Lindis Rabbit Board as accommodation for their employees. It feels like the most amazing luck that we found it, a beautiful place, hidden away but still really accessible. We always feel quite smug driving home and leaving the ‘big city’ behind.”

Run Rabbit produces fresh egg pasta, chickpea pasta and tomato and cheese sauces.  Brenda said working local seasonal produce into the recipes is important to the pair.

“We are about to start making ravioli so there is lots of scope there – duck in May, asparagus in November, basil in summer. We can get almost everything we need from close by, like herbs from Basil Parsley and Cherry Tree Farm.  Eventually we’ll make gnocchi too - all our machines are imported from Italy and they need to earn their keep.”

In the meantime, Gary’s wild thyme fettuccine, the fine ribbons of bavette and other delights will continue to appear in mailboxes around the area.

Cromwell resident Natalie Wilson began talking to Connect Cromwell and the Cromwell & Districts Promotion Group about the idea for a local directory, when the country was still in the full grip of lockdown due to the pandemic.

“The Good – Cromwell Produce Market was set up to help support local producers during COVID and to make it easier for locals to find and source fresh local produce. It’s great to see the site now up and running and to see the amazing variety and quality of food produced from Cromwell and Central Otago. We look forward to people being able to use the online produce market, enjoying fresh local seasonal produce and knowing they are supporting local businesses.”

Read edition 981 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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