Cooking in te reo

Many talents: Chef Joe McLeod has many strings to his bow.
Many talents: Chef Joe McLeod has many strings to his bow.

Globetrotting Wadestown chef Joe McLeod has been expanding viewers' cooking repertoires while improving te reo skills in his World on a Plate series, which premiered on Maori TV this year.

The Ngai Tuhoe chef presents dishes from around the globe with instructions delivered in Maori, English and a smattering of international languages.

Each week he creates a traditional starter, main and dessert from a region he has worked, including Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Rarotonga and, of course, New Zealand.

Mr McLeod worked with Reuben Collier and Jo Santamaria of Maui Productions to plan the show.

Maui production manager Tanya Morrison said the idea of an international chef who was also a fluent Maori speaker made for a show with a difference.

"It's a big ask. Not many people could cook three dishes and deliver recipes in both languages during a half-hour show," Morrison said.

Mr McLeod said cooking in front of the camera had been a great experience.

"We roughed it a bit at first, with me ad-libbing my lines.

"That didn't work, so we started writing scripts," he said.

"I now have no qualms about talking to camera, and it has given me ideas for other projects."

He said it was easy to keep up te reo while living overseas.

"I had a lot of contact with other Maori speakers and was often called on to speak at diplomatic events."

His travelling life began after he graduated from Wellington Polytechnic in 1980.

He met his partner, New Zealand diplomat Eleanor Thomson, while working at the New Zealand embassy in Japan in 1983.

Since leaving Japan, the couple have worked in several countries, and Mr McLeod has added the local dishes to his repertoire.

Mr McLeod has established Epuro Hands International to demonstrate and promote indigenous herbs and traditional Maori cooking.

"There are about 70 varieties of native greens, but only a few of them are used."

He named Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall as television chefs he admired.

"They have integrity and promote the use of local and seasonal ingredients, which fits with my ideas about food."

He said the delay in reaching a Treaty settlement between Tuhoe and the Government had been beneficial to the preservation of plant species.

"Tuhoe are the last tribe to hold together all our traditional Maori food history. I'm ready to go back and help with the revival. It will be my koha to our iwi.

"The land has effectively been held as a reserve, so those plants have been able to flourish and the pharmaceutical companies haven't been able to exploit them.

"The plants do have medicinal properties, but the benefits can be derived from eating them as food rather than processing them."

Joe's World on a Plate episode are available on demand,

The Wellingtonian