Poignant and Profound in New Zealand

Maori culture was the most intense and personally moving of all the cultures I met whilst shooting this series of “No Kitchen Required.” They truly are warrior people to their very core. They hold such a deep respect and pride for their heritage, but also showed true reverence for us as visitors, too.  This was evident from the Hongi, their traditional greeting where the breath of life is exchanged as noses and foreheads are touched.  This greeting was so poignant and profound to watch during those few seconds of silence. Their traditional weapons were beautifully crafted and their body tattoos were fascinating and loaded in meaning and symbolism. It was an absolute pleasure to be immersed in such rich traditions.

Welcome Dinner platters.

See stunning pictures of New Zealand at BBC Travel!

By being in New Zealand, I began to understand Chef Kayne more. Kayne’s passion for the sea is very true to his Polynesian roots, which consists of master boat builders and navigators.

Filming the opening of the show was a major highlight for me. A small crew of us took a helicopter to the top of Mount Terwera, a dormant volcano on the North Island. It was exhilarating! We had cameras strapped to the front of the chopper to capture footage of our flight.  The pilot took the opportunity to do a few dramatic tricks to reveal the breathtaking landscape of mirror-like lakes, reflecting steep fjords and deep-green forest covered mountains.

Lake Tarawera, New Zealand.

The most challenging aspect of this episode was the rain. Once the dark clouds rolled in, it was cold and visibility was poor. I was amazed that the chefs were able to cook under such adverse conditions. Wrapping up at the end of that shoot day was almost comical. The location grounds had become one big mud-pool, so our vehicles inevitably got stuck and had to be towed out. Nevertheless, we escaped this challenge exhausted but unscathed.

Surprisingly, the Maori cuisine was not as I expected. All their dishes had very bitter and sour flavour profiles, even their desserts tasted very savory. Michael seemed quite perplexed after the welcome dinner. The food tasted bland to him, because there were no suggestions of herbs and spices usage, which is very different from Greek cuisine. The Pikopiko fern featured heavily in the Maori dishes, both in flavour and decoration. In fact, the shape of this fern is incorporated into their artwork, as seen in their body tattoos and carvings.

Kayne prepares his protein.

Of course, Kayne was in his absolute element cooking wild pig for his native people. He used traditional cooking methods, such as the Hangi (ground oven).  It was certainly impressive how he could cook the pork to such perfection without accurate temperature gauges or timers.  The torrential weather made the cooking stakes interesting, especially when Madison gashed his head open at his cooking station. Nevertheless, it was an emotional moment for us all when the winner was announced.

Find out how to eat like a local in New Zealand.