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A top-tier Pacific cooking show 'like no other'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Pacific Island Food Revolution, the very first TV cooking show competition on Pacific cuisine, is set to premiere on Maori TV on Friday, 9 April. And before you roll your eyes and mutter that this is yet another run of the mill TV cooking show, wait a moment. Because Pacific Island Food Revolution is a TV cooking show like no other.

No other TV programme has taken viewers on a gastronomic journey of one of the most biodiverse and culinary rich regions of the world - the South Pacific. And for one hour a week for the next 12 weeks, Pacific Island Food Revolution will showcase a culinary extravaganza of Pacific food like no other.

The show’s host, international chef and award-winning Kiwi author, Robert Oliver starts the series on a high as he lands in Tonga, the only Pacific nation with a monarchy. The show gets a sprinkling of royal stardust as the kingdom’s Princess Royal, Salote Pilolevu, makes an appearance as a guest judge on the series. MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules New Zealand can’t lay claim to a royal guest!

After the first competition between three teams of Tonga’s best….the show moves to Fiji. The three Fijian teams showed up and showed off a feast of local delights, such as river ferns and clam salad served with smoked coconut dressing, with bananas and sea grapes (known locally as nama). The dish was topped off with a sprinkling of spicy chilies, a nod to Fiji’s Indian community.

Vibrant Vanuatu was next, and their teams served up local dishes that were both delicious and versatile. Vanuatu’s crops can work in a salad or a trifle, a testament to the island’s staples’ adaptability.

Finally, between shots of swaying palm trees and graceful women doing the siva (traditional dance), the viewers are taken to Samoa. With their aprons on and their knives sharpened, the Samoan teams were ready to present their culture on a plate - and the result, according to the judges, were "exquisite and divine".

Pacific Island Food Revolution is screened across 12 Pacific countries reaching a weekly audience of five million people in the region. The response has so far been overwhelming and is a testament of the show’s popularity.

One viewer from the Solomon Islands wrote on Pacific Island Food Revolution’s Facebook page: "The show is beautiful! I absolutely love that Pacific Island Food Revolution uses real Pacific people cooking incredible Pacific food. It’s such a treat to finally see us on TV celebrating our culture. Thank you Mr Oliver for reaching out to bless so many of our lives with your show."

Another viewer from Tonga wrote: "During large family gatherings and important events, we’ve created menus to include local dishes from Pacific Island Food Revolution. Your dishes are perfect for all occasions. Thank you!"

The TV show is a product of a behaviour-change program also called Pacific Island Food Revolution, funded by the governments of Australia and New Zealand. The project’s mission is to promote healthy Pacific food to Pacific islanders to combat the high non-communicable disease rate in the region. Using an innovative media and partnership approach, the program is working to elevate Pacific healthy cuisine and help Pacific people make good food choices.

Preliminary results from a survey undertaken by the Nairobi-based Busara Center for Behavioural Economics are extremely encouraging. The survey shows that the program is contributing to a significant and positive shift in individual food choices in Fiji with an incredible 55 per cent of participants reporting that they changed their diet over the past year. An impressive feat and is a testament that the innovative approach works.

Pacific Island Food Revolution’s cooking show does not have the combative nastiness that other reality competitive shows thrive on. It’s wholesome and delightful - and much like its dishes, will keep you salivating for more.

Pacific Island Food Revolution season one premieres on Maori TV on Friday, 9 April at 7:30 pm. Seasons one and two is available on TVNZ OnDemand.

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