Hospitality Business Magazine

Gastro-diplomacy links Blue Pacific Continent & NZ

Five leading Chefs representing the Blue Pacific Continent have shared their culinary creativity with 20 invited Kiwi chefs, and writers from the New Zealand cuisine media at Peter Gordon’s Homeland Food Embassy.

The event was organised by Pacific Trade Invest NZ (PTI NZ) in collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and Homeland.

Kai Pasifika provided an opportunity to celebrate the food of the Blue Pacific Continent and an opportunity to promote shared Pacific cultures.  

The Pacific Chefs, pictured above with Peter Gordon are:

  • Leonid Vusilai (Vanuatu), winner of Pacific Island Food Revolution Season one, and owner of Island Kakae;
  • Dora Rossi (Samoa), owner of Paddles Restaurant and Milani Café in Apia;
  • Losavati Sewale (Fiji), Executive Chef at Raymond’s Restaurant and a trainer chef at Fiji Orchid Resort; 
  • Rangi Mitaera-Johnson (Cook Islands), consultant Chef and trainer at the Rarotonga Cooking School; and
  • Tuiohu Mafi (Tonga), Head Chef at Tanoa Hotel, caterer to the Tonga Royal Family and President of the Tonga Culinary Association.

The celebration of food and community was designed to foster a cultural exchange through food creativity. Importantly too, it encouraged export opportunities for fine foodstuffs from the Pacific into New Zealand.

And it also helped to revitalise post-Covid tourism to the Blue Pacific, through a New Zealand brand of ‘gastro-diplomacy.’

For example, many resorts and restaurants around Fiji have adopted ‘farm to fork’ and ‘dock to dine’ experiences, creating on-site vegetable and herb gardens, and employing local fisherman, for a more sustainable approach to hospitality.

Being an archipelago of 333 islands, importing produce to Fiji can be costly and take time, but with an abundance of lush landscape and year-round sunshine, hospitality outlets are now utilising Fiji’s natural offerings. 

Resorts are working to provide guests with healthier home-cooked options using ‘as fresh as is it comes, local produce,’ allowing resorts to be self-sufficient while also supporting local communities.

The first two days of Kai Pasifika were remarkable for the sharing of culinary creativity between the Kiwi Chefs, the food writers and the Blue Pacific Chefs, with ideas, techniques, tips – and indeed whole recipes – being freely shared.

A trade show ran concurrently and featured Pacific products being presented to New Zealand importers of fine foods for supermarkets, delis and restaurants.

Glynis Miller, PTI New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner says: “We have worked on this project with Peter Gordon and his team at Homeland for a long, long time so it’s wonderful to finally see it all coming together thanks to the support of the New Zealand Government.  

“We wanted to promote the Pacific’s unique products, tell the stories of its producers, and encourage all of our 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.”

MFAT’s Director for Pacific Connections, Felicity Bollen says: “We are proud to partner with PTI New Zealand and Homeland to deliver a programme that supports innovation and partnerships with the Pacific.

“As we set our sights on new horizons for economic recovery across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, Kai Pasifika  speaks to our engagement principles of Tātou Tātou and Turou Hawaiiki, and enables us to continue navigating market uncertainties — while reimagining the future of tourism and trade — with our partners in the region.”

The event included a sumptuous five-course dinner created by Peter Gordon and the Homeland kitchen, celebrating the flavours of the Pacific Islands and a Kai Pasifika Cooking Masterclass featuring Peter Gordon’s very own culinary prowess using Pacific Island ingredients to create specialty dishes.