my muse

My MUSE | Leola King

Jun 20 2024
My MUSE | Leola King

Hello everyone,

Olivia here, to introduce you to this week’s MyMUSE: the classy, charismatic and endlessly hospitable Leola King.

If you haven’t been to Candela yet (our favourite Spanish restaurant, nestled on Auckland’s vibrant K’ Road) then trust me – it’s an absolute must. Founded, owned and operated by Leola and her fiancé Matt, Candela is a perfect combination of flavour and warmth, creativity and style. Similar, in fact, to our gorgeous muse herself!

Driven and passionate, Leola is a queen in the Auckland hospitality scene. Using her down to earth nature and sharp laser focus, her years of experience and dedication to her customers, Leola has worked tirelessly to create and elevate Candela, providing an atmosphere and experience that truly is second to none. Confident and classic with a touch of contemporary, Leola – and everything she touches – is pure class. We are proud to have her as a part of our MUSE community, and can’t wait to continue dining with her in exquisitely cosy style.

I sat down with Leola to talk hospitality, working with your fiancé and the power of the golden trifecta.



Leola, hello! Along with your fiancé Matt, you own and operate one of Auckland's most beloved eateries. Can you share the story of how Candela came to be?

Candela was the brainchild of my fiancé, Matt. After working in kitchens across New Zealand, Melbourne, Spain, and Israel, he returned home in 2020. I also came back around the same time after managing restaurants in Melbourne for a few years. Matt had already chosen a site on K' Road but was searching for someone to help bring his vision of a world-class Spanish restaurant to life. A mutual friend introduced us, and we instantly connected. Sharing the same vision for a restaurant and drawing from our experiences in demanding hospitality jobs overseas, we decided to join forces.

I took charge of the front of house while Matt led the kitchen, and together, with the help of family and friends, we prepared the site. During this process, we began dating, fast forward and we're getting married next March! Candela has truly been a labour of love and a testament to our shared passion and hard work.



You opened Candela right before the global pandemic hit. Since then, small businesses have faced even more challenges. How have you adapted and continued to thrive in such uncertain times?

It’s no secret that the hospitality sector has experienced significant challenges since 2020. We quickly realised that people were going out less and that it was crucial to provide a genuine, warm, and memorable experience for our guests, ensuring they felt their money was well spent. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is more important now than ever. With each guest, we strive for the golden trifecta: warm and hospitable service, delicious food that makes you feel good, and a well-curated drinks list that encourages new discoveries. We want Candela to feel like a home away from home, a place people can rely on for a great night out.

Expanding the business into private dining and events has also been a key part of our success. Since opening our private space in 2022, it has become one of the most successful and enjoyable aspects of Candela. This expansion has allowed us to continue thriving despite the uncertainties and challenges of the times.


What does a typical day in the life of a restaurant owner look like for you?

There is always so much to do, and every day looks very different from the last! I usually get up early and start with some exercise before jumping into my emails and making sure my team is set up for success. From there, I often focus on tasks like reservations and customer care, event planning, content creation and social media, menu costing and design, and accounts and payroll.

Other days are more hands-on, with a focus on hiring and training, working closely with our senior staff to ensure we continue to improve and listen to feedback, and making sure the venue is organised and looking perfect. I might take trips to the fish market or butcher, or my personal favourite, taste new wines and products from our amazing suppliers. Service then starts at 5pm, which is the aspect I love most about my job. I get to meet and look after our wonderful guests and work alongside my team, who are the best and so much fun to be around.



In your opinion, what is it that makes a dining experience truly special?

To me, a truly special dining experience is a fine balance of food, service, and atmosphere. The food should be thoughtful and flavourful, unique and genuine – not just ‘copy and paste’. It doesn't need to be overly complicated to be special. The service should exude optimism, genuine kindness, warmth, and thoughtfulness. There’s something so heart-warming when a server remembers your name, your favourite drink, or that you prefer a low table. The atmosphere is equally important; it should be inviting and spark interest in some way. When all these aspects work together simultaneously, they create a truly special dining experience. No easy feat!


Working with your fiancé must present unique challenges! How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Matt and I are lucky that we can work on separate aspects of the business simultaneously. His laid-back and optimistic approach balances nicely with my Type A personality, creating a good dynamic when working together. We spend mornings together as much as we can, usually walking our dogs and grabbing a coffee to go over the day ahead. We also try to get out of the country at least once a year to spark inspiration and allow our team to take the reins for a while. Boundaries are important, both with each other and our team – no business-talk on days off or in bed!



How would you describe your personal style, and how has it evolved over time?

I would describe my style as tailored, classic, and chic with a twist. I've been in hospitality for over ten years and have always dressed for restaurant life – crisp shirts, wide-leg pants, practical pockets for my tools, and classic sneakers. Recently, my style has evolved as I embrace my femininity with more dresses and skirts, I often pair them with black combat boots and statement earrings.


If you could choose five MUSE pieces to take home with you today, which ones would you pick?

Tibi Sid Jeans in classic wash, Khaite Lotus Bag in caramel, DÔEN Florencia Dress, Christopher Esber Minette Veil Heel in black & the Matteau Classic Pocket Shirt in white.