ConversatioNZ symposium lifts the lid on New Zealand's food scene video

While the day was full of speakers addressing the crowd, there was plenty of time for discussion about New Zealand food.
Jason Creaghan

While the day was full of speakers addressing the crowd, there was plenty of time for discussion about New Zealand food.

While revellers made the most of the sun, food and wine at Taste of Auckland, there was a more serious conversation going on.

Top food producers, chefs and media came together for the ConversatioNZ symposium on Sunday to discuss the future of New Zealand cuisine.

ConversatioNZ is a collective of professionals within the food scene aiming to promote the country's food, drink and culinary tourism opportunities.

Chef Al Brown and Cuisine senior food editor Fiona Smith catch up during a break in proceedings.
Jason Creaghan/ Fairfax NZ

Chef Al Brown and Cuisine senior food editor Fiona Smith catch up during a break in proceedings.

READ MORE:
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The day's format covered a variety of subjects, including culture, pride and interconnection as well as biodiversity and awareness, with renowned food writer Lauraine Jacobs as host.

Wellington Culinary Events Trust chief executive Sarah Meikle, chef Al Brown, Lewis Road Creamery chief executive Peter ...
Jason Creaghan/ Fairfax NZ

Wellington Culinary Events Trust chief executive Sarah Meikle, chef Al Brown, Lewis Road Creamery chief executive Peter Cullinane and Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell discussed the state and future of NZ food.

Cuisine editor Kelli Brett led a panel discussion with chef Al Brown, Wellington on a Plate's Sarah Meikle, Lewis Road Creamery chief executive Peter Cullinane and Garage Project's Jos Ruffell.

 

Brown says New Zealand is beginning to play into its strengths, in terms of cuisine.

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"As a country, I think we've really become comfortable in our jackets," he said. "We're not really good at formal, but we are really good at informality."

He says informality is arguably more difficult to execute.

Meikle says while other countries created and owned curries, pasta or sushi, New Zealand does not.

"We are a very relaxed people and food bonds us and it brings us together."

What Kiwis are good at, and should celebrate, is the experiences they create around food, Meikle says.

Lewis Road chief executive Cullinane says the quality of food produced in the country is exceptional but the mentality of having to produce quantity over quality had to stop.

"The reason our food tastes so bloody good is because it's fresh in every sense of the word."

"What we've just got to be really mindful of is that we celebrate the best that we can produce and not constantly go to our default position, which is 'how can we produce more of it cheaper?'."

Neudorf Winery founder Judy Finn says collaboration would be crucial to highlighting the country's cuisine on an international stage.

"We have to show that we have something special."

But to do that, the industry's leaders had to work together. "We've got to co-operate, be generous and we've got to be excellent."

Other speakers throughout the day talked about several issues facing the industry but also how to tackle them.

Originally from Australia, Cuisine editor Kelli Brett says it's a privilege to be part of the conversation around New Zealand's food.

"I'm passionate about food, I see so much potential here. My family and I, since moving here... have absolutely fallen in love with this beautiful country," Brett said.

The quality of food and ingredients is excellent, but the talented people behind it aren't showing it off. 

"You're all so damn humble about it all."

Brett says the day's speeches and discussion were only just the beginning and the day provides a basis for how to move forward.

Giulio Sturla from Lyttleton's Roots Restaurant kicked off the day's events and reiterated the importance of defining the New Zealand food story.

As the founder of the collective, he said the support the collective received, including in its crowdfunding efforts earlier this year, showed people cared.

"It was very clear to me that this was something that did not just come out of my head," Sturla said. "We are here in the world to give the best of ourselves and encourage others to do so."

 

 - Cuisine

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