Planning a trip to New Zealand? Three chefs spoke with Tourism New Zealand to share some of their favourite regions for food across the islands that you need to try!
In order to discover what makes New Zealand’s food scene so spectacular, Tourism New Zealand spoke with Aotaroa’s (Māori name for New Zealand) top food producers across the three regions of Central Otago, Canterbury, and the Chatham Islands. Chefs Tom Hishon, Vaughan Mabee, and Angela Clifford each spoke about New Zealand’s food culture through their own experiences, as well as the importance of being kaitiakitanga – a guardian of the land. Recently, chefs around New Zealand have been highlighting the local cuisine – from creating unique menus using local, regional ingredients to fusing authentic Māori practices and ingredients with modern cooking techniques to create amazing food that not only tastes incredible, but that also tells a deeper story. Keep reading to find out more!
Chef: Tom Hishon
Restaurant: Kingi, Hotel Britomart, Auckland
Destination: Chatham Islands
What makes The Chatham Islands so incredible? It is a part of New Zealand that is utterly remote and is home to some of the highest quality seafood in the world. The history behind this region is rich in culture as the original population arrived as Moriori and Māori people – whalers and sealers, farmers, and fishermen. Throughout the years, they have honoured the lands and waters and still act as kaitiaki (guardians) of the land and environment, to this day. Following in their ancestor’s footsteps, the individuals here sustainably fish these waters using distinctive methods, safeguarding minimal impact on the marine environment.
To learn more about where the seafood for his restaurant Kingi comes from, Chef Tom Hishon travelled to the Chatham Islands to view the raw marine environment for himself. Check out Tom’s first-hand experience below from a recent excerpt and how it inspired him to cook with new flavours, sparking his passion for kaimoana (seafood).
“The water was so extremely clear; the waters that surround the Chatham Islands are cold, and the islands are formed mostly on basalt. I saw a small kina (sea urchin native to New Zealand) bed and went down to bring up a couple to inspect. I cracked one open with my knife and slid one of the sweet fat tongues out with my thumb and into my mouth. I had to pause for a moment to take everything in. Food epiphanies don’t come along that often, but it was here in this bay at the edge of the world that everything made sense.” – Tom Hishon
Chef: Vaughan Mabee
Restaurant: Amisfield, Central Otago
Destination: Central Otago
Chef Vaughan Mabee has been foraging his entire life and, as a result, he now does it as part of his job at Amisfield. He has also enlisted the insight of foraging expert, Peter Langlands, and his team’s philosophy is to produce an ever-changing menu of seasonal produce and locally foraged flavours to highlight the best that Central Otago has to offer. The land is rich with delicious summer fruits, crisp apples, fruit juice nectars, organic vegetables, wild thyme, fragrant herbs, and world-class saffron, giving Mabee incredible ingredients to work with.
The team often arrives with something wild they have come across before their shifts, and you never know what a new day could bring. For instance, in autumn, they struck all kinds of mushrooms, yet summer could bring some wild asparagus.
Food personality: Angela Clifford
Place: The Food Farm, Canterbury
The Canterbury Region is on the east coast of the South Island and features the island’s biggest city, Christchurch. The land is plentiful with lush vineyards, plains of farmland, and fertile land, that are perfect for both food production and enjoyment.
Food personality, Angela Clifford’s beginnings in North Canterbury go back to the 1840s when her family was one of the first to bring sheep to the island. She has a strong passion for food, creating food resilience, and growing food communities. She also enjoys developing delicious culinary offerings. As a skilled chef, she knows how to milk a cow in a paddock, gut a chicken, find porcini and grow field tomatoes.
As the CEO of Eat New Zealand, a not-for-profit that works to connect people to the land, she started The Food Farm from her permaculture property that covers everything from harvesting, preserving, composting, and showing people how they can grow their own food. Clifford is also involved in New Zealand’s first national food celebration, Feast Matariki that celebrates the relationship between people, food, and the land.