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Cook Islands chef spreads the word on culinary delights

Thursday 6 October 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in National

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Cook Islands chef spreads the word on culinary delights
The Pacific chefs, with Peter Gordon (fourth from left), from left, Leonid Vusilai (Vanuatu), Dora Rossi (Samoa), Losavati Sewale (Fiji), Rangi Mitaera-Johnson (Cook Islands), and Tuiohu Mafi (Tonga). PTI NZ/22100502

Cook Islands chef Rangi Mitaera-Johnson is mixing it with the best in the region during a celebration of food and community in Auckland.

Kai Pasifika celebrates the produce and cuisine of the Pacific continent with several high-profile chefs converging on Peter Gordon’s acclaimed Homeland Restaurant in Auckland this week.

Mitaera-Johnson has joined Dora Rossi (Samoa), owner of Paddles Restaurant and Milani Café in Apia, Leonid Vusilai (Vanuatu), winner of Pacific Island Food Revolution Season One, and owner of Island Kakae, Losavati Sewale (Fiji), executive chef at Raymond’s Restaurant and a trainer chef at Fiji Orchid Resort and Tuiohu Mafi (Tonga), head chef at Tanoa Hotel and president of the Tonga Culinary Association for several days of shared culinary creativity.

It culminated in a Kai Pasifika Masterclass featuring Peter Gordon’s own culinary prowess using Pacific Island ingredients to create speciality dishes yesterday.

On Tuesday the chefs created a five-course dinner celebrating the flavours of the Pacific Islands - guests included Ministers, Pacific dignitaries and VIP guests.

On Monday the chefs undertook a mystery box challenge, providing food writers with the opportunity to get up close and personal with Pacific ingredients, with guidance from the Pacific chefs to create their own masterpieces. 

On Sunday the mystery box challenge saw New Zealand and Pacific chefs work side by side with a wide range of Pacific ingredients using their professional and cultural skills, knowledge and experiences to create specialty dishes.

The event is led by Pacific Trade Invest NZ (PTI NZ) in collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and Homeland – ‘the Food Embassy for Aotearoa and the Pacific.’

Mitaera-Johnson was contacted by New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade in a combined effort to promote Pacific product and produce - she has worked in kitchens for 25 years and now works freelance.

Glynis Miller, PTI New Zealand's Trade Commissioner said the event was about promoting the Pacific's unique products, telling the stories of its producers, and encouraging chefs to create a bond, whereby they can teach and learn from each other back in their own countries. 

“It would be fantastic to see a twining arrangement coming out of this – something our food writers in the media industry could themselves participate and share.”