If you love burgers, chances are you’ve heard of Lowsee Lum, affectionately known by most as Mrs Lum.
Working in her son Steve Lum’s Woolston eatery, Big Ed’s Takeaways, almost every day for more than 20 years, the 85-year-old mother of 11, and grandmother of 21, finally hung up the apron on Sunday as the business changed hands.
“She’s just that kind of woman, she can’t just be at home, she’s got to be doing something,” Mr Lum said.
“She was always hands-on, her specialty was burgers. People loved them.”
Mr Lum said Big Ed’s staff were regularly asked if Mrs Lum could prepare their order, especially the crowd favourite the Big Ed burger.
“She’s got the magic touch. She does everything the same as me but customers always ask if she can make it. She’s been doing it so long, everyone just prefers her food.
“She just puts a lot of love [into the food] I think,” he said.
Mother and son worked their last shift together on Sunday night before new owners took over on Monday. Mr Lum said it had been busy and quite emotional for him, but his mother took it all in her stride.
Before moving to New Zealand in the 1990s, Mrs Lum had emigrated from Guangdong province, China, to Fiji in the 1950s. Eventually opening Lumchew Restaurant in the town of Ba with her husband, speaking to customers in English, Hindi or Fijian.
Mr Lum said his mother had been renowned for her wontons, with families travelling from around Fiji to try them.
When Mr Lum took over Big Ed’s, in Ferry Rd, in 1994, his mother’s vast experience and tireless work ethic quickly became an invaluable asset to the business.
“She was the main lady, she was the boss,” Mr Lum said.
“Without her, I couldn’t have been as successful as I was. I could always rely on her.”
When the February 22, 2011, earthquake forced them out of the building, the Lums cooked all the remaining stock and gave it away to the Woolston community. With the help and encouragement of his mother, Mr Lum reopened on the same site in 2014.
Mr Lum said both had recently come to a point where they were ready to move on from the business. He said his mother’s December holiday to Fiji and China with her daughter Cathy refocused her priorities.
“When she came back, I think she realised that now’s the time to spend time with family.”
Mrs Lum’s family from China was set to visit for the first time in November.