Shang­hai chef cook­ing up cul­ture

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

As we saw dur­ing 2010’s Cra­far farms saga, New Zealan­ders get very ner­vous when Chi­nese buy­ers move in on Kiwi land and prop­erty.

The un­der­ly­ing fear seems to be that China has das­tardly plans to in­vade the coun­try, pad­dock by pad­dock, fac­tory by fac­tory, in or­der to help feed its 1.4 bil­lion-strong pop­u­la­tion.

I didn’t re­alise how hyp­o­crit­i­cal this at­ti­tude was un­til I ar­rived in Shang­hai and dis­cov­ered New Zealand has its own takeover plans for China. New Zealand is mov­ing in on the Mid­dle King­dom with all guns blaz­ing, and its plan is the same – feed­ing those 1.4b with Kiwi tucker.

Fon­terra, for ex­am­ple, is not only ship- ping truck­loads of milk pow­der to China, but has bought a swathe of dairy farms in the north of China to feed the grow­ing Chi­nese ap­petite for milk. New Zealand but­ter can be found next to bread rolls in Chi­nese restau­rants and on Asian air­lines. Even Porirua’s own Whit­tak­ers was fea­tured in the food sec­tion of my pa­per, the Shang­hai Daily.

If takeover is New Zealand’s plan for China, strate­gic HQ is a lit­tle slice of the An­tipodes in down­town Shang­hai called New Zealand Cen­tral. Set in a trendy ex­pat bar and restau­rant district, New Zealand Cen­tral is home­sick Kiwi heaven – be­fore vis­i­tors even reach re­cep­tion they are ser­e­naded by tui bird­call in the el­e­va­tor. Up­stairs is a set of fancy con­fer­ence rooms and lounges where New Zealand com­pa­nies can host busi­ness meet­ings with Chi­nese clients, and a com­puter suite for Ki­wis to set up of­fice while in tran­sit.

All this is run by New Zealand Trade and En­ter­prise (NZTE), the govern­ment’s trade arm. Most other coun­tries run trade ac­tiv­i­ties through their em­bassies, but New Zealand is keen to stand out among the crowd. Which brings us to the most in­ter­est­ing room in New Zealand Cen­tral – the demon­stra­tion kitchen.

Ev­ery cou­ple of weeks a group of Chi­nese food in­dus­try VIPS get treated to a cook­ing les­son fus­ing Western and East­ern cui­sine, but with ingredients like New Zealand honey, mus­sels and beef tak­ing the star­ring role. This mar­ket­ing ef­fort is the brain­child of Robert Oliver, the most fa­mous New Zealand chef you’ve never heard of – his Pa­cific Is­land cook­book Me’a Kai was judged best cook­book in the world in Paris this year.

He’s based in Shang­hai as NZTE’S con­sult­ing chef, spread­ing the gospel of New Zealand food in China.

The key mes­sage for sell­ing Kiwi ingredients to the Chi­nese is food safety, Oliver told me. The Chi­nese are weary from con­stant toxic food scan­dals, and many are able and will­ing to pay top dol­lar for clean, green food. So per­haps that’s where our Yel­low Peril at­ti­tude comes from – we’re keen to cash in on ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ be­fore China gets a chance to.

Kapi-mana News reporter An­drea Oneil is in China on an Asia Foun­da­tion schol­ar­ship, work­ing for the Shang­hai Daily. Fol­low her blog at: the­la­dyfromwelling­ton.blogspot.com.

Fishy fu­sion: Cook­ing lessons are key to New Zealand’s cam­paign to get Kiwi tucker onto Chi­nese ta­bles, as they fa­mil­iarise Chi­nese cooks with New Zealand ingredients. Here, New Zealand-em­ployed chef Ja­son Cui makes a Thai soup with Kiwi mus­sels for a crowd of Chi­nese food blog­gers and food in­dus­try VIPS.

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