Time to explore Cook Islands cuisine

Monday June 25, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Local chef Rangi Mitaera-Johnson surrounded by fresh fruit and veges. 18062410 Local chef Rangi Mitaera-Johnson surrounded by fresh fruit and veges. 18062410

For decades tourists have been attracted to places because of their natural beauty – beaches, mountains, deserts, thermal activity and so on.

But more recently it is the people in those places that are as much, if not more of an attraction – and their culture. How do they live, what is their culture and what do they eat?

That said, food tourism is now as much a part of the reason that attracts people to one place over another when they are planning their next holiday as any.

To that end the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation is having another crack – over the next fortnight – at finding and developing a Cook Islands cuisine strategy, and you’re invited to take part.

Five celebrity international chefs have been invited here to link up with local chefs and food professionals, farmers, fisherpeople and interested stakeholders to help define our Cook Islands cuisine.

Things kick off tomorrow afternoon at Highland Paradise at 4pm, with a welcoming ceremony and a taste of some local cuisine.

Then on Wednesday there will be visits to local plantations to see what the local farmers have to offer and to get their story on local cuisine.

Thursday marks the chance for fisherpeople to show off their wares with – weather permitting – a fishing excursion, and hopefully fish.

Back on shore on Friday, the ongoing search for a cusine strategy will move to Coastal Kitchen in Tupapa for panel discussions on the Supply and Demand for Food and Food Security, Healthy Foods, and Culture and Foods.

Here is where certain prickly issues will be explored – like the need to create a sustainable supply of local produce, the impact of climate change, the high cost of local fish to locals, why we are so high on the list of obese nations, and why we have such a high NCD rate.

The branding of the new strategy with the term ‘Takurua’ will also be discussed. What does it mean and what are our traditional foods and why do we need to bring them back?

Saturday being market day, the entourage will move to Punanga Nui, where either there or at Prime Foods – who are a sponsor for the event – the visiting chefs will source produce for the highlight of the exercise at Te Vara Nui on Monday evening. That’s when the five chefs will produce a dish each for the cuisine launch.

The visiting chefs are Robert Oliver, the New Zealand-born chef probably best known here for his involvement in production of the Me’a Kai book featuring Pacific recipes, which won the Best Cookbook in the World award in 2010.

Sani Simei – who is currently the head chef at Sails Restaurant – previously worked with  Robert Oliver in New Zealand, and was the first New Zealand chef to win three AGFG Hat Awards, which is an Australian-based food award system similar to the prestigious Michelin Stars system based in Europe.

AGFG stands for Australian Good Food and Travel Guides. It dwells on the quality of the food, the ingredients used, the flavours and balance of flavours.

Oliver Fitton is head chef of the Britomart Restaurant Group in Auckland. Oliver has been a head sous chef and has broken new ground in pastry cooking.

In his new role at the ‘Super’ cafe on the waterfront in Auckland, he is focussing on cafe classics like eggs benedict at wallet-friendly prices.

Cook Islander James Raukete is currently the executive sous chef at the very large Eden Park event centre in Auckland – he’s the only local amongst the visiting chefs and was formerly at Crown Beach.

The final visitor is Joseph Stubbs from the Naturally Otway organisation in Melbourne.

Naturally Otway takes the hassle out of stocking up for your holiday away from home by taking your order for the food and drink supplies you require and delivering them to your accomodation ready for your arrival.

The Takurua programme has been designed to be interactive and to engage all sectors of the community over the next 10 days or so. We’ll be providing daily updates and profiling upcoming activities that you can be a part of.

            - Release

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