Pasifika food, music, singing and dancing all played a part in the AUT University-hosted launch of Robert Oliver’s new book.
New Zealand Tourism and Research Institute (NZTRI) member, Oliver, spent time travelling the Pacific Islands and in early May launched his book Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific at Piko and Four Season's restaurants in the School of Hospitality and Tourism at AUT.
New Zealand-born, Fiji-raised Robert Oliver went back to the Pacific Islands to rediscover
the art of Pacific cooking. He travelled to Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands to track down the most skilled local cooks and adapted their recipes for the modern kitchen.
The result is more than just a recipe book; it covers Oliver’s journey through the islands and his fascinating encounters with local cooks and food producers.
The book has a clear mission: to support sustainable tourism in the South Pacific. All too often in Oliver’s career and travels he saw that local growers and producers were missing out on supplying the large tourist resorts and hotels.
“I found that local food tasted better but a lot of the food used in the hotels and resorts, such as produce and juice, was being imported,” Oliver says.
“My goal is to improve the quality of food offered to the South Pacific region’s tourism market and to contribute towards rural prosperity in the Pacific by creating an increased demand for locally grown foods.”
Director of NZTRI, Professor Simon Milne says Oliver’s book is an inspiration and emphasises the point that as the two largest economic sectors in the Pacific Islands it is vital that tourism and food production come together.
“Through its recipes and ‘farm to table’ philosophy this book will benefit tourists by enriching holiday experiences and building income streams for Pacific communities,” Milne says.
Robert Oliver is a renowned chef and has been working with NZTRI to develop a research programme area that encompasses tourism, gastronomy, food production and community/regional economic development. A focus of their work has been the link between cuisine and tourism in the South Pacific islands and the influence of Pacific cuisine in New Zealand. There are also two PhD students at AUT focusing their research on the links between food and tourism in the island nations of Niue and the Maldives.
AUT’s Head of Department for Culinary Arts, John Kelly, has been involved in subsequent discussions with Oliver, and says there is a great deal of interest and potential for incorporating pacific cuisine into the curriculum.
“I’m looking forward to working with my team and alongside Robert to develop some of these ideas.”