New cooking competition Pacific Island Food Revolution serves up Pasifika cuisine

New cooking competition Pacific Island Food Revolution serves up Pasifika cuisine

Renowned Kiwi-born chef Robert Oliver has cooked up what he hopes will be a life-saving recipe for Pacific Islanders.

He is putting his experience on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand to good use with Pacific Island Food Revolution (PIFR), a cooking show aimed at encouraging Pacific Islanders to return to eating traditional foods.

The show is part of an initiative funded by the New Zealand and Australian governments amid concern that the introduction of processed foods is killing people in ‘Pacific Island paradises’.

“In Pacifica there’s a deluge of marketing by the big processed-food companies and it’s powerful stuff,” Oliver says.

“White rice has replaced a lot of the traditional carbohydrate which was far healthier and sugary drinks are everywhere and super cheap.

“There’s no shortage of food. There’s just a shortage of food with the right nutrition and a lot of these – we wouldn’t even call them food – have replaced the traditional diet and thereby we have 73 per cent of Pacific people dying of non-communicable diseases (heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure) which are diseases related to the way we eat and live.”

Pacific Island Food Revolution follows 24 cooks from Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa as they turn traditional island foods into prize-winning dishes. Unlike many other TV shows, there is no big prize for the winners – and also none of the nastiness and tantrums viewers have come to expect.

Pacific Island Food Revolution is a hit in the Islands where it screened this year and the contestants have become famous, with their newfound star power being used to further promote healthy food initiatives.

“In Vanuatu and PNG, there seems to be a poor understanding that diet is what is making people sick and they’re attributing it to black magic rather than, ‘I should stop eating all this white rice’,” he says.

“This may be a television show but, actually, we hope it’s also a behaviour-change project in terms of what people eat. On our social media there’s lots of, ‘I didn’t know you could do that’ and, ‘We should be doing this’.

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Photo credit: Adli Wahid on Unsplash

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