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The Pacific Island Food Revolution

Reality television meets community health initiative. Think My Kitchen Rules Rules without the vitriol and filled with Pacific heritage and humour. By Elaine and Tony Wilson.

May 30, 2019
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Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

May 30, 2019

People of the Pacific need to get ready to dramatically change their eating habits because the food revolution is coming soon to a screen near them.

The region’s first genuine reality TV show will not only entertain you but it packs an ultra-serious three course punch that will not only change many lives for the better but will even save some as well.

Intrigued?

Well this worthy series, which is the brainchild of NZ celebrity chef Robert Oliver, is a cross between the highly successful reality shows My Kitchen Rules (MKR) and Masterchef – wrapped up in a smorgasbord of Pacific tastes.

He said the overriding concept of the show goes back to his first cookbook which was released in 2014.

“I really looked hard at what local cuisine meant in the Pacific, what it consisted of and how it was more than just sitting down and eating, but was a part of the lives of the Pacific islanders,” he said.

“Along the way I saw how bad non-communicable diseases (NCDs) had become throughout the Pacific, and in particular diabetes which is a real scourge of the region, and I thought we could do something about it.

“I was not a big fan of reality TV until I was a judge on MKR and then I realised just how potent it is.

“So the Pacific Island Food Revolution is aimed at being a real movement, a social movement using the power of reality TV, radio and social media to change people’s eating behaviour.

“The Revolution will activate local cuisine knowledge and turn a mirror on the Pacific itself that reveals that eating fresh, local, indigenous foods is the answer to good health.’’

Mr Oliver said the show covers four countries – Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa – in 12 one-hour episodes.

“The reality TV program is like My Kitchen Rules but kinder and filled with Pacific heritage and humour,” he said.

“The challenges in the TV competition will look to provide solutions that people have identified as barriers to healthy eating such as convenience, taste and affordability.

“People can become Food Warriors on social media or at www.pacificislandfoodrevolution.com. There they can share their journeys and download toolkits, lesson plans for teachers and Pacific classrooms.’’

Chef Oliver said 24 talented but untrained cooks, working in pairs, from Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa, will compete in the TV competition, which he hosts.

“The show will see the cooks embrace their Pacific food heritage and use local produce to create traditional or new flavoured dishes, while competing to win,” he said.

“For example in one of the shows from Vanuatu, we used mamas from the famous fruit and veggie market to set what the cooks had to prepare.’’

Two Tongans, Fololeni Curr, and UNICEF Pacific Ambassador Pita Taufatofua, will be Robert’s co-hosts for some episodes of the show, along with Dr Jone Hawea from Fiji, Dora Rossi from Samoa, and Voutausi Mackenzie-Reur from Vanuatu.

Two winners will be taken from each episode through to the finals in Fiji.

“The entire show will be broadcast in Australia, New Zealand and throughout the Pacific for free,’’ he said.

He said it is funded jointly by the Australian and New Zealand Governments, with the pilot program costing AU$7 million.

It was filmed last year and Robert said they are already working on a second series.

Vanuatu’s two episodes in the new series were filmed at Breakas Resort near Port Vila with Voutausi as co-host.

“She is really remarkable – she delivered such knowledge and is really dynamic on screen,” said Robert.

“She is going to be a superstar, she is so authoritative,’’ he said.

Voutausi Mackenzie-Reur is the perfect co-host for the Revolution in Vanuatu because, through her own food company, Lapita Foods, she has been preaching the same message for many years.

“It was a lot of fun for me to do the show, but it also has an important message to sell,” she said.

“We need to reactivate the younger generation so they learn the right types of food that they should be preparing and eating.

“We want them talking to their grandparents and that generation about how they use local products to create a balanced diet that is healthy but good to eat.”

Voutausi said it is important the contestants on the show are not professional chefs, but home cooks.

“It showed what could be done with the right ingredients and some knowledge.

“I really believe that a show like this can change the lives of whole communities for the better.”

She said she was going to be a part of the second series and hoped the show would run for at least three or four series.

“It is lots of fun to be involved, you learn about your own food styles and it has a really important message.” •

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