THE MAIN INGREDIENT
Kelli Brett on the recent International Food Design Conference
THE FOOD DESIGN Institute at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin recently presented what has to have been one of the most stimulating and challenging three days of ideas ever held in the food world. The International Food Design Conference and Studio 2016 showcased the brilliance of the minds behind the Food Design Institute and their engagement with their students. I was lucky enough to attend, along with food writer Lauraine Jacobs and Cuisine senior food writer Ginny Grant, and asked them to share the wow factor...
Direct from Nigeria, although raised and educated in the United States, chef Michael Elegbedé shared his vision for the new project he is creating in his birth country: a modern restaurant where traditional Nigerian foods and ingredients, sourced from small farmers, will be shaped into a new form of high-end cuisine. His words of wisdom: “In Nigeria they cook stew just to eat. It should mean more than that.” michaelelegbede.com
Truffles, ice cream, modern Māori food, southern seafood, coffee, raw food design, cocktails, bitter foods and even eccentric subjects such as matchstick design were discussed and debated. But it was on the third day that I realised just how much of the real New Zealand food scene I had missed in my 30 years of a food-writing career. Manaakitanga is at the heart of our unique way of eating and entertaining. I had never heard this term before, or if I had, noone had explained it. Manaaki simply means to show respect for, and this is inherently part of all Māori feasting. Adding the suffix -tanga makes it a noun, so manaakitanga means the process of showing respect for others, and is often translated as hospitality. I was entranced by the hāngi workshop, where we discussed manaaki and then pulled wonderful tītī (muttonbird) wrapped in thick, fresh sea kelp from the steaming pit, as well as the workshop presented by Hiakai, a modern Māori food project. The final day’s brown-bag lunch of pork and kumara sandwiches and little sweet doughnuts was inspired by a student’s memories of his marae lunches. As I winged my way home north, I felt determined to embrace the manaakitanga in my life and spread and share all those delicious words I had heard and learned. Taea kai. laurainejacobs.co.nz
Dutch food designer Marije Vogelzang explored the interplay of context and culture – I loved the idea of her jewellery workshops for children using vegetables to make earrings, bracelets and the like to encourage eating a variety of foods. The video of her installation piece about the Roma gypsy women of Budapest feeding other women through a curtain, while telling stories of their childhood, moved me to tears. marijevogelzang.nl
Peter Langlands’ foraging workshop and his huge depth of knowledge – not only in plant-based edibles but also our kaimoana and birdlife – was truly aweinspiring. wild-capture.blogspot.co.nz
Another highlight was attending Monique Fiso and Kane Bambery’s Hiakai pop-up dinner at Bracken (I’m still dreaming of their paua barley risotto), and also their workshop, after which they talked about their experiences growing up as urban Māori and their growing connection to traditional foods. hiakai.co.nz As for me, since being in New Zealand, I’ve been trying to find the words that make New Zealand food unique. Chef Al Brown wrapped up the last day of the conference with a nostalgic trip back through the national pride and joy in baking and preserving, and the evolving knowledge of flavour and texture. My take-away from Al’s grounded and perceptive conversation are two words: “flavour volume”. New Zealand has the flavour volume turned up.
We were all blown away by the entire package, from the presentations, lectures and workshops, to the shared meals with like-minded food obsessives at pop-up dinners around the city. All the way through there was an incredible synergy between the students and the participants, led by passionate organiser Professor Richard Mitchell from the Otago Polytechnic Food Design Institute (see Eat & Greet, page 58).
If you have the opportunity to attend the next International Food Design Conference, do it! It’s for anyone who wants to understand “food on another level”, as Lauraine Jacobs eloquently described it. fooddesign.org.nz
TOP Nigerian-American chef Michael Elegbedé led a workshop on Nigerian cuisine
ABOVE The hāngi workshop was another highlight