‘There is nothing more magical than food’ was the opening statement that began the ‘Entrees’ panel discussion at this year’s Auckland Writers Festival. Celebrity chefs Yael Shochat (Of Ima Cuisine, Auckland), Tony Tan (Malaysian-born Asian food expert) and Karena & Kasey Bird (Masterchef NZ Champions) set out to prove, as they talked about how food teaches us lessons on inclusivity, authenticity, and sustainability.
Food is an entrée to a place. It is a pathway towards understanding the way people live, their social structures and what they value. There is nothing more magical than food as a means of expressing culture and bringing different people together to eat.
Each chef on the panel had their own dishes that they defined as an expression of themselves. Yael Shochat is Israeli-born, Tony Tan is Malaysian-Chinese, and the Bird sisters have a strong Maori heritage. Although they all spoke of completely contrasting cuisines from all corners of the world, the Auckland audience was, to an extent, familiar with each of them.
An Israeli Salad – Yael Shochat’s staple Israeli dish, served aside falafal and hummus at Ima Cuisine (photography @eatlitfood)
New Zealand, and Auckland in particular, has a high number of immigrants from around the world. This has led to an incredibly diverse range of cuisines Photo Editing Services that we have access to at our doorstep. If you go to Sandringham you can be immersed in delicious, authentic Indian curries. Just down the road on Dominion Road there is an immense selection of Chinese restaurants to visit. It was discussed that there’s still room for this to be balanced considering the complete lack of Maori cuisine – there is but one single food truck on Queens Wharf serving Hangi in Auckland that the chefs could mention.
The world may be a difficult and confusing place. But this inclusivity of cuisines proves that despite our differences, food has the powerful ability to bring us together and help us to understand each other much better.
Good food has a responsibility to stay authentic to its roots. The reason – in Auckland at least, that places like Sandringham and Dominion Road are so iconic is all to do with how authentic the food is. Authenticity, as discussed by the chefs, comes from making a genuine effort to immerse oneself in a culture before they try to replicate its traditions.
‘Authenticity is understanding just what it is you are cooking, and why,’ was a powerful statement that came out of the talk. Everyone was in agreement that it takes responsibility to authentically cook the food of any culture. This is done best when the chef takes the time to learn the history and the social constructs of the meal. Why do they use the ingredients they do? Why are these cooking methods the most popular?