And Ona is all set to use the knowledge she had gained over the years in the Cook Islands Culinary chef’s competition next Tuesday.
She is nervous and trying not to feel intimidated by the experienced chefs at the upcoming event.
“I’m not a (professional) chef, you know when you commit yourself to something and you realise maybe you shouldn’t have… but I have to see things through,” Ona said with a smile.
She was attracted to the event, which was last held in 2017, because it was open to the public.
“I’m pleased that it is open to public. I was curious about the different preservatives and produce that were going to be presented on the day, and thought why not.”
Feeling a bit nervy she reminds herself, “I like cooking and I love our island produce.
“I’m looking forward to see what I can create with local products.”
Ona and her husband operate a noodle tent at the Muri and the Punanga Nui markets.
Moving back to the island some three years ago, they noticed no one was serving noodles, “so we thought why not, it’s different let’s give it a go.”
Trying to stay true to home grown produce is a great idea but also challenging, she says.
“This is because we are limited to what we have, especially with the food sources.”
Her family are growers, with plantations of taro, pineapple, arrowroot and fruit.
“My dad still grows and we use a lot from our own garden and other suppliers, and we try and use what’s available seasonally.”
Using the modern kitchen equipment is another challenge for her.
“I think it’s really about the taste and the food, but my daughter reminds me it’s also about presentation too.”
Ono knows of how we love our food served in a good reasonable portion and not tiny little delicate looking meals on a large plate.
“For most of our people it’s about the look … where is the food? Our people love to eat, we like to eat. We want our food to look like food.
“Food is about comfort for us; you can take what meals mama and papa are cooking at home and turn it into fine cuisine.
“We know how to cook, we do great food. Our food has a lot of taste, a lot of body, and its filling.”
Ono has been preparing mentally for the upcoming challenge, and is keeping a look out for what’s available from planters.
Registration for the Culinary Championship closes today. Fee is $50 per competitor. For more information, call Terina Teiri-Karaiti 76293.
A 5 course menu (two portions per course) is to be executed in 100 minutes: course 1 - eggs benedict, course 2 - composed salad, course 3 - dietary dish, must be vegan and gluten free, course 4 - kai moana, course 5 - pawpaw inspired dessert.