6 Sep 2013

New television show celebrates Pacific food

5:11 pm on 6 September 2013

Pacific food will be the star of a new television show to air on Television New Zealand this weekend.

Chef and author, Robert Oliver, who was raised in Fiji and Samoa, says his programme Real Pasifik will take viewers to Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Tonga to learn about local traditional cuisine's.

He told Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor about the show.

"ROBERT OLIVER: The premise of the show is that it's a follow-on from Me'a Kai , which is the book about Pacific Island cuisine. I guess when you look at a show about food, most people think it's going to be a celebrity chef show or a cooking show, but this is really a food culture show. And it's positioned as a way to raise Pacific Island cuisine to this very high status comparable with Thai or one of those things from within the Pacific. So it's a cuisine show. And it delves into the deeper meaning of cuisine, into organics, into what is traditional Pacific Island food and why was it not fully incorporated into tourism and here's how to."

MOERA TUILAEPA-TAYLOR: And tell me about some of the places you're going to visit as part of the show?

RO: We're opening this Saturday on TV1 at four o'clock. And the first episode is in the Cook Islands. We were mainly based around Rarotonga, but we also did a trip to the Aitutaki to do some lagoon stuff. And then the following saturday is Samoa. And the focus in Samoa is around organics. There's an amazing organics revolution in Samoa because of being led by Women In Business Development. And then there's a look at traditional healing foods of Samoa, then we have a day with a great chef in Samoa, Joe Lam, who used to be in Auckland, but now he's back in Samoa. Then the following week, the 21st, it's Vanuatu. And that's exploring very deep Melanesian rootsy cuisine stuff that goes way back. Fiji is on 28 September. I was brought up in Fiji, so it's three friends of mine. One is Sashi Kiran who does chutneys et cetera with her organisation Friends Fiji through the Indo-Fijian recipe base, and then there's Suliana Siwatibau, who's a very good friend of mine and she's preserving Pacific heritage crops. And then we go to New Zealand on 5 October, which is where the Pacific expresses itself in an urban context, it's where the Pacific comes together. 12 October is Tonga, and we explore royal food and the place of Tongan cuisine. The story of the food is the story of the people, so it's really much more than a cooking show. There's a real look into the depths of Pacific Island food culture.

MTT: I know you've had a lot of experience in the Pacific, but were there any new dishes you had discovered that maybe you'd never heard of?

RO: Everywhere there was stuff. I don't think we've ever seen the Pacific looking this lush and beautiful. I think the Pacific is often portrayed as either destination or developing. This is looking at leadership, inspirational food, exciting in-roads into food culture there, so it's a whole new way of seeing the Pacific.