John Palino was born in the USA and has 3 brothers and a sister. When asked about his childhood, John immediately said “I worked! From age 13, I was the best dishwasher around and still am.” For Palino, it seems that the small things count, and he likes to get them right. “Working at my father’s restaurant gave me a total appreciation of the value of hard work and ethics.”
Since the age of 21, Palino has been managing businesses. At the first restaurant, he managed 150 plus staff. Later on, John went to pursue his acting career, something he still enjoys today as time allows. During this time, he worked as a bartender and a waiter. This grew his love for people and serving them. At the age of 31 he built his first restaurant in New York City and shortly after opened another. It was here that he met a young kiwi who told him about New Zealand. This encounter eventually saw him selling his restaurants and moving to New Zealand in 1996.
Here in Auckland, he opened multiple restaurants and cafes and even had his own TV show called “The Kitchen Job” where he went into restaurants and helped them improve their businesses and sometimes helped pull them out of distressing situations.
Palino continues “I was just doing what I have always done serving people so I built a show around just that.”
When asked what drives him? Palino said “Helping others… that’s what is at my heart’s core.”
Palino is in engaged in areas of the Auckland community “I have been a longtime friend of the Papakura Marae and the Salvation Army in South Auckland. With these and other groups, I have been a staunch advocate of helping those in need, I have often cooked for them. Last year I partnered with ‘Lifewise’ to create a pop-up restaurant at their Merge Cafe to help raise money to keep that cafe going.” When asked about the homeless situation in Auckland, Palino is visibly moved and says “It is something which must be seriously addressed. When you look at the results that we have now, you can’t help but feel sad with what you see. We can do better and we have to do better. People are no longer able to afford to live in Auckland even if they have a home. I feel that socially Auckland council has failed.”
As a newbie to fatherhood, Palino talks very fondly about the experience of having a son and being responsible for a little life, “if I didn’t have to go to work, I would watch and play with my son all day long! I love being a father it’s the best experience in the world.” At the same time, it reinforces the responsibility Palino feels to build a better future for his son and the generations to come.
Palino is hot to tackle issues around traffic, poverty, cost of living and quality of life in Auckland by building satellite cities. Palino comments “This would bring 50,000 jobs to the Manukau area as well as 20,000 jobs to the Albany area.” He states he has met with infrastructure experts and leaders about his ideas and most agree. Palino tells us that the main push comes from a realisation that ‘change emanates change’, “we can’t keep going the way that we are going now. It’s not working. Auckland is being planned as one big city rather than a region of multiple cities. The overseas examples and advice council receives is for cities (cbds) not regions like Auckland. Our planning must change, we must realise people need to work closer to where they live in order to fix not only congestion but family costs and family time.” Palino believes that he has the skills and the vision to bring the councilors together and to get Auckland on track. His overseas experience has allowed him to understand good and bad public transportation and infrastructure.
Palino was often asked about the Americas Cup. He believes it is an amazing opportunity and will be huge for NZ. What doesn’t fit with him is that the Auckland ratepayers are paying a large portion of it.
“The Cup belongs to NZ not just Auckland, and the full economic return goes to central government through GST, payroll taxes and import duty. We compare ourselves to other parts of the world, but we need to understand again the differences. In most other cities, GST and a portion of income tax remain local. When other cities invest in similar events, they see the financial returns.” Palino thinks that central government should participate more to the cost of this event and fund Auckland to hold it for NZ.
Palino said “We need to change our thinking here.”
One of Palino’s favorite things about living in Auckland is our cultural diversity and richness.
“When I go on holiday, I go somewhere to learn about and really experience another culture.” Palino continues.
“We should promote all cultures more extensively along with Maori culture and traditions, so people can experience them all more.”
One of his many ideas in the interest of uniting our indigenous culture to have a Marae open-day once a year, so that all people can visit their local Marae, participate and enjoy what Maori culture has to offer in our communities.
“Festivals like the Lantern and Diwali are wonderful examples that do so much for uniting our communities, it’s so important to foster and celebrate such wonderful Kiwi traits of tolerance to all cultures through empathy and understanding.”
More recently, Palino has been running his new cafe on Franklin in Ponsonby doing what he loves: serving and helping people!