Kea talks to World Class New Zealander Robert Oliver about his latest project, Kai Pasifika, Auckland’s first Pacific Island restaurant set to bring a taste of Pasifika cuisine to Aotearoa.
Robert, you say Kai Pasifika is clearly more than a restaurant. Tell us about your vision.
Yes that's true, we are creating what I guess can be called an activator. Cuisine is central to culture and identity. The story of the food is the story of the people. But beyond that cuisine facilitates trade. Think of French cuisine and how that puts French food into the luxury food space, think of Thailand and how its whole tourism industry is perched on Thai food. Kai Pasifika will activate trade links between the Pacific Islands and Aotearoa, be the showcase for koko samoa, coconut oil and all that.
Not to mention the effect we want to have on Pacific health. Pacific people and their health has suffered from the deluge of fast and processed foods, and yet the original Pacific cuisine was based on whole great foods- let’s make that sexy again!
I’d love to bring Pacific chefs down to Auckland so that they can be immersed in their own cuisine in the urban setting, and so that we can learn from them - and then they take that knowledge back to the islands to stimulate food in tourism. Pacific cuisine on Pacific menus requires local agriculture. Currently way too much food in tourism is imported- so there’s a whole prosperity model there!
So when you view cuisine in this way- you start to see how important this project is.
We haven’t seen this cuisine in a restaurant here before, why do you think that is? And what does this mean for Auckland?
You know, I have thought about that a lot and come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter, as long as we do it now! It's a big deal for Auckland- its our point of difference between Sydney and Melbourne. Auckland is the capital city of the South Pacific so this not just a restaurant but a vital place of our identity as a city.
OK, tell us about the food
The good stuff! So we’re putting together an urban interpretation of Pacific Island cuisine with elements from all of the islands: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Cooks, Niue, Vanuatu. We may even sneak Tahiti in. But instead of me talking about it, take a look at our video below and see for yourselves.
When will you open and where?
Well we need to raise the funds first, but we anticipate opening early 2017 in Central Auckland.
So you are crowdfunding?
We turned to an equity crowdfunding campaign because we want the community to not only be customers but also owners. Of course this doesn’t only apple to people of literal Pacific Island heritage. It applies to all of us. Aotearoa New Zealand IS a Pacific nation so we are all people of the Pacific
How can Kiwis get involved?
Yes, that’s easy! The opportunity to join us is live now. Just click the link below to register as an investor and pledge:
Robert Oliver, Celebrity chef, award-winning author, speaker, and TV presenter
A New Zealand chef raised in Fiji and Samoa, Robert has developed restaurants across the US and Australia, launched “farm to table” resorts in the Caribbean, and organizes food programs feeding those in need in New York City. His first book Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific connected Pacific agriculture with tourism and won “Best Cookbook in the World 2010” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris.
Robert is also Chef Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, a world-renowned speaker, television presenter, contributor to The Huffington Post and New Western Cuisine, and judge on “My Kitchen Rules”.