Food guides showcase unique taste of Northland
A team of five Northlanders is using the medium of storytelling to help others discover a connection to their land through Tai Tokerau’s unique and award-winning food, beverages and culinary tourism.
Northland is home to five of 30 food guides (Kaitaki) gathered across the country to tell the story of the nation’s kai. The recently launched initiative runs for 12 months and is promoted by Eat New Zealand, a not-for-profit collective, promoting New Zealand’s food stories and its people to the world.
According to Eat New Zealand, the food guides come from all corners of the country and include an eclectic mix of interests, ranging from sheep and beef farmers, growers, gardeners, fishers, hunters, vintners, chefs, cooks and coffee roasters to dieticians, artists, writers, content creators, photographers, food-product developers, kai tour guides, eco warriors, regenerative agriculture enthusiasts, and many others.
Megan Hart, one of the five Kaitaki chosen by Eat New Zealand to represent Tai Tokerau, works with the Growth Advisor team at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency, when she is not indulging her passion as a foodie.
“This is such a cool, exciting concept and offers a wonderful opportunity to take a dive into Northland food through storytelling. It’s about keeping our food current and connected to our unique wider food systems and our cultural environment,” she said.
“Our mission over the following months is to unearth the stories of our place or tūrangawaewae, to encourage people to feel a connection to the producers and artisans, and to learn about the mahi required to achieve the beautiful product of local cuisine.
“Northland is so unique; we often talk about how we are a bit cut off from the rest of New Zealand courtesy of our big cousin, Auckland. Because of this we tend to look inward for solutions to any food challenges we may face – the result being a unique, hardy food economy, rich with personality right under our noses. It’s so exciting to be given the chance to share this story.”
A different topic will be selected each month; in July it was Matariki, this month the Kaitaki are exploring the global movement “Slow Fish”. This movement raises awareness among seafood-lovers about how their food is caught while encouraging them to support responsible artisanal fishing communities and their practices. “Basically, it is about understanding the journey from the sea to the plate, and asking the question: ‘do you know your fisher?’” Hart explained.
The stories are showcased by Eat New Zealand on their various platforms. “Our perspective is welcomed and supported by Eat New Zealand, and we can tell our stories through whatever means we want, whether that happens to be a video, a piece of writing or Instagram post, for example.”
Joseph Stuart, General Manager, Business, Innovation and Growth at Northland Inc, welcomed what he described as an “important new concept”. “Northland Inc has a two-year partnership with Eat New Zealand, and it’s crucial that we support the Northland story within the New Zealand one and ensure our region’s food story is told to the best of its ability,” he said.
“This is an important concept for many reasons, but particularly so because it’s the voice of the consumer telling the stories and imparting their experiences with food – this is a really inclusive and relatable way to help fast-track this vibrant industry and be a part of the region’s exciting food and beverage future.
“People need to know about what they eat, the goodness they put in their mouths, while supporting all the local producers and artisans for the amazing mahi they do. This concept will not only help to create awareness around the subject but will undoubtedly have a positive effect on food tourism activity within our region.”
Angela Clifford, CEO of Eat New Zealand, said it was no surprise that Northland had featured so prominently in the line-up of Kaitaki: “The history and current interest in food in this region is incredibly strong. It is particularly exciting to see the diversity of backgrounds among our Northland Kaitaki; from farmers to hospitality, to recent arrivals to tangata whenua. They all bring their unique perspectives, and it is by celebrating these stories that we find our place in the world.”
The five Kaitaki chosen to represent Northland are: Muriel Rodriguez, Hinemoana Marama Pearl Black, Rachel Thwaites, Shaquile Shortland (Pā) and Megan Hart.