Food & Feasts of the Cook Islands

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For decades visitors/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.

Food tourism is now as much a part of the reason that attracts people to one place as opposed to another when they are planning their next holiday; and to that end the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation is having another crack – over the next fortnight – to find and develop 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, fisher people 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 local cuisine.

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

Thursday’s the fishing peoples chance to show their wares with – weather permitting – a fishing excursion, and hopefully fish.

Back on shore on Friday. The ongoing search for a cuisine 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. Prickly issues 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 are we so high on the list of obese nations and 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 Te 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 Michellin 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 is focusing on cafe classics like eggs bene 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 accommodation ready for your arrival.

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


Successful first Kia Orana Week wraps up

Kia Orana week has come to an end. It has been a successful week, of showcasing different elements of our culture and heritage to visitors on the island.  With an average of around forty visitors a day to the various activities on show, Kia Orana Week is set to grow.  The activities have helped to highlight Cook Islands way of life to visitors.  The Vaka Pride prizegiving for the latest round of Vaka Pride judging was also held during this week.

During the last couple of days, visitors have enjoyed demonstrations of making traditional quilts (Tivaivai), fabric painting, tie-dying, coconut husking, raw fish making, making traditional medicine, and Cook Islands dancing.  The coconut husking was demonstrated by CI Tourism staff and included the grating of the coconut, squeezing of the coconut meal for the milk, and lots of insights into the uses of the different parts of the coconut tree and coconut flesh.

Visitors were provided with a treat when professional Chef Tokerau “Tooks” Turia of ‘Coco Putt’ demonstrated the making of the local delicacy “Ika Mata” or Cook Islands style raw fish.  In true CI style there was plenty to spare for tasting at the end.  Visitors were also in for another treat when Cook Islands Tourisms’ own Ani Katu shared a sacred family recipe for a traditional herbal medicine with the audience.  Visitors helped to gather the plants needed for this herbal poultice right off the beach, then watched a demonstration of how to prepare the medicine.  Ani shared her knowledge of traditional ‘Maori’ medicine in the Cook Islands and the ailments and remedies she knows of.

Friday 23rd of March wrapped up Kia Orana Week with a dance performance by Avarua primary school, dance lessons from the students, and finally a performance from the team from Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.

Visitors and passing locals were provided with a week of entertainment, fun and authentic activities with Meitaki hospitality right through Kia Orana Week.  A visitor from Canada commented that “Kia Orana week is relaxed but very informative. We have been to Monday and Tuesday’s events, and again on Thursday and we have enjoyed every minute of it.”

The next event called “Meitaki Week” is scheduled for the 25th to the 29th of June 2018.  Meitaki week will showcase all the same activities as Kia Orana week, but will also include wood carving and traditional massage.  Careers day focusing on the Maritime sector will kick off Meitaki Week on Monday the 25th of June, through celebrating the International Day of the Seafarer in conjunction with Maritime Cook Islands, with more details to come.