Taking local food to the next level

(By Avneel Abhishay, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015)BLOG

“They don’t only want to see the country, they also want to eat the country”

These words of Colin Chung, the celebrity chef from New Zealand, got to me. Finally! Someone said it.

I swear if we had people like Colin Chung in Fiji, the culinary industry would have witnessed history, and been revolutionised long time ago.

The grace, and style he delivered his speech at the Fiji National University’s conference room had everyone listening in anticipation.

What did he talk about?

The truth! Nothing but blatant truth. If you can’t handle criticism, trust me you would not wish to sit in his session.

Everything he says is so painfully true backed with his idea and evidence that one can simply not deny.

He successfully created a picture in everyone’s mind what his idea of locally dressed food is like:

Imagine a juicy piece of meat stuffed and dressed with ivi nuts, dressed with local herbs, and served with breadfruit chips on the side.

What did he emphasise?

“If you can’t spell Caesar in Caesar salad right, why even put it in the menu?”

I partially agree to the point made, he also went to on to say that, if as a chef you can’t spell something, how can you make it.

At that statement, I can’t say that I agree fully. Because come on! Cooking is a talent; even in top class restaurants where only literate chefs are chosen, they fail miserably.

But then again, it’s true in a way that if you can’t spell the name of your dish right, how can I be sure that you will make it right? After all, the menu card is the first impression I have of the food before I actually taste it.

“People don’t just want the local foods we eat everyday”

I totally agree to the statement made, I will take for example Indian restaurants. They don’t want to experiment making new things.

When I go to a restaurant I don’t feel that excitement or that sense that I will be trying something new today.

I have ‘paneer’,’ biryani’, and ‘tandoori’ at home. So what is new when I go to a restaurant? It’s the same thing; even food kiosks at food courts make ‘paneer’!

Lessons to learn

We have a long way to go, in terms of the farmer-chef relationship. This session with Colin Chung was an eye-opener, not only for chefs but also for me. I simply couldn’t deny the facts he stated, whether they be subjective or objective.

He pointed out at a specific point how lazy our chefs are. And it’s ironic that we import what we have in Fiji because it’s off season.

Can’t connect the dots? Well he mentioned using mangoes as an example that if chefs were not lazy to peel the mangoes slice it and freeze it in bags, we wouldn’t need to buy imported frozen mangoes.

Notice the irony? I personally can’t agree more to most of his statements. Though some things he mentioned were simply ignorant from certain perspectives, most of it as stated before, blatant truth.

A lot of quotes in this post, but this is what happens when you are back from chef Chung’s inspiring session. Follow the hashtag #PacAgriTo not to miss out on important things said and done live.

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