With German precision, a young Wairarapa man finished high school, went to Bavaria, immersed himself in sausage-making and brought home his skills to make smallgoods in a shipping container under the moody mountains.
Sebastian Nebel hasn’t strayed off focus. On the west Carterton farm owned by his German parents, his business BavariaNZ has quickly taken shape.
He turns out sausages and hams in the traditional style of the south-east German state where bangers, bread and beer are cultural mainstays.
Sebastian’s youth and vim are reflected in the vivid orange and pink exterior of his steel container work space. He cut into the farm’s hillside to slot the container and his meat chiller into position.
Even his German partner, Lena, was impressed by Sebastian’s meticulous conversion of the big steel box into a smallgoods kitchen. “Sebastian always does thing correctly but also keeps it simple,” Lena says.
Six years ago, Sebastian finished Wairarapa College and travelled to his parents’ homeland, staying with his grandmother in Wartenberg, near Munich.
“But I wasn’t going to sit around doing nothing.” He approached family-owned business Metzgerei Stuhlberger, which had a 300-year-old butchery tradition. Within a fortnight he was offered a two-year apprenticeship and joined a dozen other butchers at the premises, where he stayed for four years.
“Sebastian spoke the Bavarian dialect with a Kiwi accent and slang thrown in – I don’t think people knew what to make of him,” Lena says.
When the couple met in Wartenberg, Sebastian didn’t hide the fact he would return home to New Zealand. Having finished her studies, Lena decided to join him.
Sebastian brought her home to Wairarapa, turning west from Carterton, out to the Belvedere Hall (where the weather can change suddenly), and further on to his parents’ property in Snake Gully, the road curling up and under the Tararua range.
At the farmhouse, large pieces of dark wood furniture brought from Bavaria by Sebastian’s mother circle two church pews flanking a large family table, where German is spoken. Lena knew little English but felt at home on the German-Kiwi farm.
Sebastian set to work on BavariaNZ, buying the shipping container in February 2017 and gaining his health certificate six months later. Once the sausages were flowing, Sebastian and Lena borrowed gear to set up market stalls and sell their weiners, nurnbergers and manuka-smoked hams.
“One of our milestones was buying two folding tables of our own,” Lena says. Distribution is growing, with market stalls further afield and some products at retail outlets.
“I’m not complacent. I’m always thinking how I can make things more efficient, or better, or improve my processes. Cutting corners shows in the product,” Sebastian says. He is careful but not strict with flavours – fennel and curry are two of his varieties.
“There are laws in Bavaria on how to produce sausages. They don’t really experiment with flavours like we do in New Zealand.”
“In Belvedere, Germans can’t see what Sebastian does!” Lena jokes.
Kiwi savaloys and cheerios, with their party-pink dye, left Sebastian’s friends in Germany bemused.
“A Bavarian butcher asked me why New Zealanders would put dye on sausages and my initial response was ‘how else do you make them pink?’,” he recalls. Even German frankfurters are a cut above and should make a ‘crack’ when broken apart.
Sodium-heavy supermarket sausages get a bad rap here, but BavariaNZ products are the best they can be, with fresh herbs and spices, no pre-mixes – and no dye. They are preserved by pre-cooking and vacuum packing. However, there was a small lesson on salt to be learned.
“Germans use ground-sourced salt but here we tend to use sea salt, which is stronger – I tried a German recipe and used the same amount of sea salt – let’s just say it didn’t work.”
He uses no fillers and sources the best beef, lamb and free-range pork – which begs the question: Why is there a stag head on his packaging but no venison inside?
“The stag, to me, is a strong, noble and elegant animal,” Sebastian explains. “It reflects my upbringing and respect for animals, so I chose it for my logo.”
Still in his mid-20s, with plenty on the go, German Sebastian’s motto is: Go Safe but Properly. New Zealand Sebastian encourages people to finish his sausages by throwing them on the BBQ. That’s a pretty good combination.
BavariaNZ can be found on Facebook and at retail outlets, including the Big Apple in Greytown.
Story by Julia Mahony
Photography by Jannelle Preston-Searle