PTI New Zealand: Pacific culinary creativity to New Zealand

KAI PASIFIKA a celebration of Blue Pacific cuisine was held at Peter Gordon’s acclaimed Homeland Food Embassy at Westhaven, Auckland in the first week of October.

KAI PASIFIKA a celebration of Blue Pacific cuisine was held at Peter Gordon’s acclaimed Homeland Food Embassy at Westhaven, Auckland in the first week of October.

The festival was all about celebrating the food of the Blue Pacific Continent as an opportunity to promote our shared Pacific cultures.  A vitally-important aspect of the event was to introduce  the extra-ordinary produce from selected pacific island countries, to speciality food importers throughout New Zealand, and to the hospitality industry, foodies and cuisine journalists, bloggers and authors. KAI PASIFIKA succeeded on all these fronts.


For centuries, food has been the connector of peoples and culture, trans bounding distances.  Food spices, coffee and sugar were popular commodities used in ancient trade routes.  In the pacific, food is what brings people together.  Deals are brokered; family disputes resolved; a new life is celebrated; food is the social and cultural fabric worth celebrating.

KAI PASIFIKA was also about culinary tourism.  As borders begin re-opening and tourists begin to re-merge, gastrodiplomacy in tourism offers grounds to stimulate new associations between tourism industry leaders and operators to draw tourists closer to experiencing national cuisine in all its cultural applications and industry norms.  

With the support of our partner the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)  five chefs were flown in from Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.  They were joined by 20 Kiwi chefs.  Together, the chefs cooked up and presented an assortment of dishes prepared using food items from the Blue Pacific. 

Glynis Miller, PTI New Zealand's Trade Commissioner said "KAI PASIFIKA was made possible by the generous support of MFAT. It's positive projects like this that do so much to assist the exporters of the Blue Pacific Continent. We sincerely thank MFAT for their partnership with us in this."  

As part of the programme, New Zealand food writers from different media were also invited to experience food preparation and cooking using food items from the Pacific.

Food items included achar (from New Caledonia); beers (New Caledonia); Bora Bora Sea Salt (French Polynesia); blue prawns (New Caledonia); chocolate and cacao curry mix (Fiji); cacao nibs (Solomon Islands); chilli sauce (Fiji); frozen albacore tuna steaks (Fiji);  frozen taro and cassava (Fiji); ground coffee (PNG and Fiji); Koko Samoa (NZ sourced); turmeric powder, ginger powder; natural extracts (New Caledonia); Niue Honey; organic virgin coconut oil (Fiji); pepper (Vanuatu);  rum (French Polynesia), rum punch (New Caledonia) and rum, vodka and gin (Vanuatu); and vanilla (from Niue, Tonga, French Polynesia).

KAI PASIFIKA was  remarkable for the sharing of culinary creativity between the Kiwi chefs, the food writers and the Pacific Chefs, with ideas, techniques, tips - and indeed whole recipes – being freely shared.

As part of the event, PTI NZ hosted a trade event for New Zealand F&B industry leaders and distributors.

The Pacific producers who travelled for the event said it was a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the New Zealand market in the agri-food sector by learning more about the trends, needs and consumer perceptions of their products. Producers are now following up with the opportunities created by the event and we hope we will be able to share more successful stories in the near future.

The Pacific chefs are seen here with Peter Gordon:

  • 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.

This celebration of food and community did much to foster cultural exchange through food creativity. Importantly too, it encouraged export opportunities for fine foodstuffs from the Pacific.

Glynis Miller said "We have worked on this project with Peter Gordon and his team at Homeland for a long, long time so it’s a relief 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”.

KAI PASIFIKA continued with a sumptuous five-course dinner on the Wednesday evening created by Peter Gordon, the Homeland kitchen and the visiting chefs, and celebrating the flavours of the Pacific Islands. Guests included the New Zealand Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon Aupito William Sio, and Hon Phil Twyford Minister for Trade and Export Growth. Also there, former MP Louisa Wall, and the nation’s ‘first bloke’ and seafood expert Clarke Gayford, husband of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

MFAT’s Director for Pacific Connections, Felicity Bollen said, “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.”

KAI PASIFIKA concluded with a Cooking Masterclass featuring Peter Gordon’s very own culinary prowess using Pacific Island ingredients to create speciality dishes. This, naturally, was a sold-out event.