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What I Ate: Actor Jess Sayer, co-starring in the play Mr Red Light

Expectation vs. reality

What I Ate: Actor Jess Sayer, co-starring in the play Mr Red Light

Aug 15, 2019 Food

 Jess Sayer, like the rest of us, loves a meal out. But sometimes our desires don’t quite match with our budgets. She’s co-starring in the upcoming Mr Red Light, an “absurdly funny and joyfully inventive” play, opening August 30 at the Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre. Read Jess’ expectations vs. reality in her Metro What I Ate food diary.

Look. Ima level with you. I feel like there are two types of people in this world. The people who are good at food… and those who really aren’t. Sadly, I fall into the latter category. And while I get all master-chef approximately one month per year – where I go all out and send a photo of every meal I make to every single one of my friends and my mum and force them to praise me for my brilliance – I generally suck at cooking. So when/if I’m feeling particularly rich (also maybe one month per year) I’ll hit all of my favourite spots.

Because I’m an actor who plays pretend for a living, I thought for this food diary, I would lay out my pretend week of food – the food-week of my dreams – contrasted with my harsh, cold reality. The reality of a culinary-challenged vegan just trying to survive.

READ MORE: What I Ate: Kalyani Nagarajan, star of Mrs Krishnan’s Party


I’ve always felt like Monday is a dinner type of day (probably because imho breakfast sucks). And if I were in charge, Monday would be declared dumpling day. OMG I love dumplings so much. I would get all of my friends together and go to Barilla or New Flavour and force everyone to order their own dumplings (vegetarian dumplings no egg for me). Then, we’d all do our best to eat every single one of them. Now I’m not a big fan of change and so in terms of my dumpling consumption, I haven’t really branched out from those two places. BUT. Recently, I went to a neat little place called XuXu in Britomart – which is – wait for it… a dumpling BAR. Dumplings AND cocktails? Heaven.

REALITY: This week, however, I did not have dumplings for dinner. I couldn’t face the supermarket so I rolled up to my local dairy and purchased a loaf of bread. When I got home, I carefully toasted two slices and melted Olivani over both pieces. Then, I delicately spread a very thin layer of vegemite over each slice. I also had a floury apple.


Now I know I said breakfast sucks – but BRUNCH is a different story. In this fantasy food-week, I’d have organised to meet my favourite brunch buddy (Andi) at Bread and Butter (off Richmond Road). They know me so well there now; they even know my dogs order (a bratwurst – yes he deserves it). My usual order never disappoints: a soy mocha, an orange juice (best in Auckland) and an Avocado Breakfast Salad with a few amendments. Sometimes you can feel really annoying being a vegan and asking for things to be swapped out for other things, but the staff at Bread and Butter are always so accommodating. There is a really great vibe and the outside is totally doggo friendly, which is really important.

REALITY: I was at rehearsal during the perfect brunch time (which is anytime from 10am to midnight), so I had an apple (crunchy AF), an orange and the rest of my cold coffee which I usually take all day to drink.

Jess Sayer at Bread and Butter off Richmond Rd. Photo: Amanda Billing
Jess Sayer at Bread and Butter off Richmond Rd. Photo: Amanda Billing


I’ve survived till mid week and that means I deserve a treat. So, my pug Bruce and I head off to Crumb Café on the corner of Ariki St in Grey Lynn. I get a soy mocha and Bruce gets a puppercino. That’s his treat. My treat is getting to watch him get frothy pet milk all over his stupid little face. Seriously though, this café is next level for dog lovers. They bring your pooch a doggo coffee (pet milk at perfect dog temperature filled with dog treats) in a little cup. The people who dreamt up this café are my people.

REALITY: After rehearsals, I found some old dark chocolate in the back of the fridge, melted it in a cup, burnt myself trying to get it out, tipped it on some baking paper, stirred some of my flatmates smooth PICS peanut butter through it and sprinkled some salt on it. Then I had to put it in the fridge to set. I’ve only just now remembered I did that. Yus.


Thursday also strikes me as a dinner day. So, in fantasy land, I’m off to Satya – my favourite South Indian restaurant ever. I usually head to the one in Sandringham with my special Satya jeans on. These are two sizes bigger than my size coz – mate. Ima need the extra room. They have a mind blowing vegan menu and I over order every single time and regret nothing. My favourite dishes would have to be their Jeera Aloo and Vegetable Koorma.

REALITY: This week, my flatmate was making crumpets so I stole two of them and also had a packet of noodles that I stole from my other flatmate. They both watched me while I stole these food items, so. It’s fine.


Friday is definitely a lunch day and let me tell you… The Butchers Son in Herne Bay is where it’s at. Being a vegan, it’s very rare to walk into a restaurant and literally be able to order anything off the menu. Before I went vegan, a Caesar Salad was probably my favourite lunch food. So when I first walked into The Butchers Son and saw a Caesar Salad on the menu I just about passed out. All of the food at this restaurant is stupidly delicious and again, the outside area is totally doggo friendly.

REALITY: Guys. For lunch today. I literally had a Caesar Salad from The Butchers Son. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was. (PSA: Trying to spell the word Caesar just reminded me how hard spelling is).

Jess with her pug, Bruce. He loves a puppercino. Photo: Supplied
Jess with her pug, Bruce. He loves a puppercino. Photo: Supplied


Look. I’m not going to lie. I love dancing. On a Saturday night, it’s not unusual for my friends and I to go for a boogie on K’ Road. Now, our nights in town are always dictated by one thing: the closing time of Lord of the Fries. We can be having the best time, but the minute someone says we’ve got twenty minutes before LOTF shuts, you’ve never seen us move so fast. My go to is the spicy Beyond Burger (this is just as good when your sober, FYI).

REALITY: This Saturday I went dancing, but I danced so hard I missed my window of opportunity. I had to have toast and I don’t want to talk about it.


In my food-dream week, on Sunday – I’d have a comfort food day with my friends. I’d brunch at Postal Service Café (what used to be Kokako) in Grey Lynn. Then I’d go to Tart (the all vegan bakery) across the road and indulge in a donut and probably also a pie coz I have no self control. AND THEN. I’d probably spend so long trying to decide where to go for dinner (no one in my friend group can make a decision) that I’d end up stuffing myself with Hell Pizza (Sinister with dairy free cheese) while we all watched a movie.

REALITY: On Sunday I lay in bed with my dog coz I was sick, learnt lines and made such a fuss, that my wonderful flatmate Matt cooked me some potato’s and brought them to me – which I’d call a win.

 See Jess Sayer in Mr Red Light, on at the Herald Theatre, Auckland 30 August – 22 September, before heading on tour to Oamaru, Dunedin, Wanaka, Nelson, Blenheim and Tauranga. Details available here.


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