A new book by a well-known Pacific chef and culinary educator not only celebrates the natural flavours of oceanic cuisines but strongly urges people to eat healthy, local and seasonal foods.
Hawaiian born chef Colin Chung has been travelling the Pacific Islands for several years as a hospitality consultant and trainer. Moving to New Zealand from his homeland in the 1980s, Colin settled in New Zealand where he has run several successful cafes and bars, including the legendary Vinnies in Raglan, about 150km southwest of Auckland.
Besides advising major hospitality establishments, he has conducted training for Pacific chefs through NGOs and Pacific based organisations like SPTO (South Pacific Tourism Organisation), APTC (Australia Pacific Training College) and Pacific TAFE besides others.
The exercise of compiling the 102-page recipe book titled Kana Vinaka took five years while he saved recipes and validated techniques, developing strategies, concepts and philosophies for his training programmes across the Pacific.
The inspiration for the book came from the poor menus that he encountered, especially in the small locally owned establishments; the nearly 80 per cent proportion of foods that is imported into the islands to both feed the tourists and the locals alike and the resultant high level of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the islands.
The high content of processed, salt and sugar laden imported foods in the islands is what prompted Mr Chung to compile recipes both traditional and modern around the naturally nutritious foods abundantly available locally.
“The lack of awareness of how else to use the abundant local produce, except in traditional ways, and finally as a way of building local economies for farmers, fishermen, growers, distributors, market gardeners,” is what drove him to write the book, Mr Chung says.
The book is targeted equally at the hospitality industry, the general public, particularly the housewives, foodie-locals and visitors to the idyllic islands. “To be effective in our goals to change the way local people and the visitors eat, we also wanted to have the book serve as a teaching tool or aid. It was difficult to manage, but I think we accomplished a lot of this,” Mr Chung said.
Speaking of the recipes in the book, Mr Chung said, “Most of the recipes are mine from many years of cooking worldwide and some were developed as I seek to use different local products in contemporary ways. Therefore, some are as old as the hills and some just developed over the last year as needed for the book or in chefs’ classes.”
The book is Fiji-centric for a couple of reasons, the author said: the country offers the right setting with a wide range of good resources — seafood, dairy, poultry, pork, beef, goats, fish varieties and natural and planted fruit and vegetables.
“Secondly, I have been visiting Fiji since 1974 and have made many friends, associates and connections there, so was natural to start this book in Fiji. The great visitor industry growth here over the last 20-30 years, the beautiful and friendly people and the willingness of government and NGOs to assist and work together also helped,” Mr Chung said.
Though seed funding for the book came from the late Fiji-based nutritionist Susan Parkinson’s trust, the bulk of the production cost was underwritten by the Fijian Government’s Ministry of Agriculture. Launched in Fiji in April this year, the book is now available in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. Copies can also be ordered from the author (details at the end of this story).
The book is laid out in an easy-to-read format with picture accompanying the recipes. Photographed on site and in Mr Chung’s kitchen, it was designed by a New Zealand artist and liberally uses Fijian motifs such as masi and voivoi mat designs. Sections in the book are colour-coded for easy referencing.
Priced NZ$50, the book, the author hopes, will be good and cheap enough to be adopted in schools and educational institutes. The Fiji Government has taken that on board and is in the process of distributing it in educational institutions. “I just want to increase consumption of local produce and for people to eat healthy,” Mr Chung says.
There is a useful back-of-the-book section that indicates what grows where in Fiji and when in the calendar year and season it is available. It’s a valuable asset for growers and for those committed to eat local, healthy and seasonal foods.
To order, email the author at email@example.com.