START­ING THE CON­VER­SA­TION

Now Con­ver­sa­tioNZ has achieved its crowd­fund­ing tar­get, what’s next for the move­ment? THOMAS HEATON re­ports.

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

The Con­ver­sa­tioNZ team tells Thomas Heaton what’s in store for the fu­ture

CON­VER­SA­TIONZ BE­GAN with unan­swered ques­tions. Chef Gi­ulio Sturla, whose Lyt­tel­ton restau­rant Roots was named Restau­rant of the Year at the 2015 Cui­sine Good Food Awards, wants an­swers. He, at least, wants a dis­cus­sion about New Zealand’s food sys­tem.

“I’m a very cu­ri­ous per­son, and have many ques­tions in my head,” Sturla says.

“Why are we cre­at­ing food just to sell, rather than mak­ing it de­li­cious? We are los­ing the taste of good food.”

He also wants the gov­ern­ment to recog­nise what the coun­try has in terms of food. “It’s just a con­ver­sa­tion, it’s not crit­i­cis­ing.”

As a way of ad­dress­ing th­ese ques­tions, last year Sturla gath­ered to­gether a group of like-minded peo­ple from the New Zealand food in­dus­try at the in­au­gu­ral Con­ver­sa­tioNZ event in Christchurch. The aim was to cre­ate a new food com­mu­nity.

It was suc­cess­ful, but that suc­cess has been hin­dered by the fact that no one has had enough time to ded­i­cate to the cause. Roots was act­ing as the driv­ing force be­hind Con­ver­sa­tioNZ, and that wasn’t sus­tain­able.

That’s where crowd­fund­ing came in. While Sturla and his as­so­ciates were ob­vi­ously pas­sion­ate about the cause, the PledgeMe cam­paign was re­quired to re­veal if the rest of the coun­try was of the same mind. They also needed to raise enough money to em­ploy some­one to co-or­di­nate the con­ver­sa­tion, and there was only so much they could give out of their own pock­ets. The goal was set at $30,000 and the cam­paign ran for a month. Ninety per cent of the pledges came in the fi­nal week, and in the fi­nal hours the tar­get was reached, and then sur­passed – fin­ish­ing at close to $35,000.

The co-or­di­na­tor who will now be paid to work for Con­ver­sa­tioNZ part­time is An­gela Clif­ford (pic­tured top right with Gi­ulio Sturla). Clif­ford ran the crowd­fund­ing cam­paign. “Just as ben­e­fi­cial as the money we raised is the aware­ness of the move­ment,” she says.

Restau­rants from all around the coun­try con­trib­uted in their own way, of­fer­ing re­wards for peo­ple who pledged a cer­tain amount to the cause.

“What I found the most mean­ing­ful was the sup­port around the coun­try,” Clif­ford adds.

Sturla says the suc­cess of the cam­paign proves why this move­ment is needed. “The peo­ple in New Zealand de­cided, it’s not just us.

“Ev­ery­body wanted to talk, ev­ery­body wanted to say some­thing.”

CON­VER­SA­TIONZ SYM­PO­SIUM 2016

Con­ver­sa­tioNZ will be hold­ing one of its most im­por­tant events to date in Novem­ber. Themed “Why Kai?”, it will be hosted by food writer Lau­raine Ja­cobs and speak­ers con­firmed so far in­clude Har­lequin Pub­lic House’s Jonny Sch­wass, Monique Fiso of Hi­aKai, Tony Rogers from Tourism New Zealand and Jade Te­mepara from Kākano cafe. The sym­po­sium will be an op­por­tu­nity to learn about the is­sues fac­ing New Zealand’s food in­dus­try, as well as the beauty of the coun­try’s pro­duce. Sturla says it’s a sim­i­lar con­cept to the an­nual MAD con­fer­ence (the brain­child of Noma’s Rene Redzepi). The sym­po­sium will be held in co­or­di­na­tion with Taste of Auck­land from 9am on Sun­day, Novem­ber 20, at Western Springs. Tick­ets are $95 from iticket.co.nz and in­clude en­try to Taste of Auck­land as well as lunch and drinks. • Cui­sine is proud to be the me­dia part­ner for Con­ver­sa­tioNZ. Stay tuned for up­dates in each is­sue.

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