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Samoa Observer

Samoa Observer: Top Chef talks up organic choices

They say that laughter is brightest where food is best.

In the world we live in today, it’s either we have something that’s good for the economy or something that is good for the people.

It’s very rare to have the best of both worlds but the question is, why? Why can’t we have something that benefits the country’s economy as well as the health of the people? Why can’t we have something that will help our farmers as well as our tourism industry?

Don’t fret people because the simple answer has arrived in the country with Chef, Author and TV celebrity, Robert Oliver.

The New Zealand chef who was brought up in Samoa and Fiji has come to partner up with Women In Business Development (W.I.B.D.I) to link organic farming to the tourism industry.

Mr. Oliver has written two award winning cook books highlighting the different tastes of the Pacific.

His first cook book ‘Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific’ won The Best Cook Book in the World 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards; his other book ‘Mea’ai Samoa: Recipe and Stories from the Heart of Polynesia’ won the Best TV Chef Cookbook in the World 2013 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Now Mr. Oliver is here in Samoa to make us proud once more. 

“When I released the Mea’ai cook book back in 2013, that was to bring attention to the fact that Samoa has awesome cuisine,” he told the Samoa Observer. 

“It had a place in the tourism industry and when that cuisine is positioned well it would be good for the local economy due to the fact that it needs local agriculture and local farmers.”

The close relationship between Mr. Oliver and W.I.B.D.I will lead to so many ground breaking benefits to Samoa.

“I have been working with women in business from the beginning on this big vision of linking farmers to tourism industry through the cuisine,” he said. “Samoan cuisine is the joining piece, it links the two together; it is also part of the Samoan destination story as well as holds a development role in regards to keeping money within Samoa.

“I previously did a lot of work in the Caribbean with hotels called ‘farm to table’ where I linked local farmers to supply hotels. 

“So we saw this opportunity with women in business having relationships with nearly a thousand family organic farms in Samoa to create a model which is similar.”

The initiative from the partnership has grown tremendously since they began their programme.

“So we began that in 2013, and that has grown to the point that there are now several hotels and restaurants in Samoa that are being supplied certified organic crops into their menu systems,” he said.

“The big asset around organic is that Samoa is the leader in the Pacific (possibly even the world) in that area, and it is the natural Samoan way within a legal framework.

“For me it has a great destination value because everyone who travels has to eat, and a lot of those who travel do so because of the food.

“Places like Thailand, France and other countries have seen the value of their local food making it a successful form of tourism attraction.

“There is no reason Samoa can’t have the same as those other countries, especially given that people don’t just come for Samoan food but rather, they also come for organic products.”

Mr. Oliver believes Samoa should take advantage of the value of organic cuisine.

“Organic around the world is at a premium level, it’s expensive, but over here it’s not. So it’s a great offering for Samoa to enhance its tourism industry as well as its people.”

Another reason for Mr. Oliver being in the country is to further develop what he and W.I.B.D.I had started.

“I’m back this time because we are moving that to the next level. I will meet some existing clients and checking on the farms as well as re-energize the whole programme.

“In the middle of this period Women in Business will have their fundraiser for their warehouse in Nu’u where they have their product development from local Samoan products.

“There is also a hatchery over there, most of the warehouse is done but we just need this fundraiser to finish things off, we are about to embark long range relationship with a new resort here.” 

Mr. Oliver’s most recent cook book emphasised the importance of organic cuisine which could act as a guideline for many chefs in Samoa.

“The  Samoan chefs have their own idea of what they want to do, but due to the book we released, they are beginning to understand that Samoan cuisines offers a lot of value to be put on their menus,” he said.

“They may not put just palusami but they may put their own interpretation of the local dishes, so my role is to supply the foundation through my books. 

“Organic food is clean, and so it helps with health reasons, organic food is good for you.”

One thing is clear for Mr. Oliver and that is organic farming is the solution to many problems in the world.

“The other flow on effect is the fact that organic farming takes care of all the environmental issues that are coming up globally.

“Organic is becoming more and more preferred, there is a mindset that organic activities are only something that hippies do, but most people will want it if given the chance.”

The W.I.B.D.I fundraiser will be next week Monday 9 May 2016.

Read the full article HERE

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My acceptance speech at the KEA WORLD CLASS NEW ZEALAND AWARDS

I have had a long association with KEA during my years in New York and Shanghai- so this feels great...there are many dreamers like me out there but few get acknowledgment in the public arena- so thx KEA for valuing what I do …I am truly grateful

All of the work credited to me of course is the combined efforts of many and this recognition lifts us all. I have been fortunate to work with some brilliant collaborators. … firstly I’d like to acknowledge my co author and writing partner Dr Tracy Berno, and photographer- the magic man! Shiri Ram

You need vision to see vision, so I'd like to salute Mr Edouard Cointreau founder of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards who in seeing our vision gave us the thrilling break that put us on the path we walk today
I am seriously grateful to the tenacious Heather Lee and Anna Marbrook of Zoomslide Productions who painfully and patiently schooled me in the world of television with my first show REAL PASIFIK based on our books

I have also loved my roles on both My Kitchen Rules and Marae Kai Masters and wish to thank Imagination TV, Television New Zealand and Maori TV… and in particular Cindi Lucas ….and I have loved sharing screen time with 2 of Aotearoa’s biggest talents who are both dear friends…and they are Nadia Lim and Tekohe Tuhaka (I learned heaps from you TK..)
I wish to acknowledge my partners at Kai Pasifika restaurant…Auckland’s hot Pacific Island restaurant born thru the efforts of Richard Hall, Kenina Court, Repeka Lelaulu and our awesome chef Bertrand Jang
I speak for us all when I say it is our great honour and privilege to serve the Pacific community in Auckland, this Pacific city in this Pacific nation

I cherish my relationship with Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand and especially my friendship with its dynamic director Jenny Jenkins

I have amazing friends who have always thought the best of me…and man, that can get you anywhere in life…everyone knows the fabulousness of Beatrice Faumuina, and then there’s Gayle Anne Kelly of One Bowl Productions in Los Angeles, Maiki McKay, Shauna Flenady, Cindy of Samoa and the ever awesome Marisa Tomei….many of you know her as a Hollywood actress, but through our 30+ years of often outrageous friendship, I know her as a sterling soul. She was the first person I called when we won the Gourmand Award …I was in a state of shock at reaching such crazy heights and Marisa’s words to me were “But I’ve have always seen you that way”

I have been guided and mentored by a group of Pacific Island women. It’s not that they set out to teach me; it is that I learned EVERYTHING just by being around them.
They are Votausi McKenzie in Vanuatu, Papiloa Bloomfield Folikai in the Kingdom of Tonga, Adi Tafuna’i and Faumuina Tafuna’I in Samoa, and Suliana Siwatibau in Fiji. Through these women, I have been exposed to true leadership. It's a form of leadership that is based on the power of love, rather than the love of power….the kind that nurtures communities… … they saw the value of my work in the broadest sense- by looking back both to their own grandmothers and also forward to their grandchildren. The story of the food is the story of the people, and these women entrusted me with their stories, stories from the past that are also the blueprint for the future- in fact, I now view all of my work as the activation of indigenous knowledge, their knowledge.

And then there are the ones that have always been…my own whanau….my brothers Jeff and Richard, my awesome sister Shelley, beautiful Willa and handsome Sione, and my mother Jean who has loved and guided us all, she’s always believed in us, and with that in your life, you can fly.
3 months ago today, my beloved father left us…he was much more than a father to me, he was my mentor, my hero. Legacy is defined in many ways- often in buildings built, wars won, institutions founded, policies enacted.

But for me, the truly great leaders, the Martin Luther Kings, the Ghandis, legacy is something that is left in the people whom they affect, the social movements they inspire, the communities they enrich, the mindsets they ignite. This speaks to me of my father. He touched the lives of thousands of people and he gave me my mindset, the way that I think. He may not be here in person, but he is profoundly and absolutely here in spirit and I am my fathers son…so Tagaloafa’atautele Dennis John Oliver….although it is me standing here accepting this accolade, this pretty boy…this is really one for the whanau
Kia ora..vinaka vakalevu, malo lava..
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About Robert

Award winning Author, Chef Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand/Pacific Islands, TV presenter of REAL PASIFIK and MKRNZ tasting panelist.

For event or booking enquiries please contact: Johnson & Laird Management
+64 9 376 0882
bookings@johnsonlaird.co.nz
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