IN THE KITCHEN
One place you'll definitely want to be, come afternoon and evening, the Fisher & Paykel Kitchen, which features the creme de la creme of Auckland's chefs and foodies demonstrating their craft on the big stage.
Thursday kicks off with the likes of The Grove's Ben Bayly and The Food Store's Mark Southon. On Friday afternoon, check in with Annabel White and the Kermadec Fine Dining boys, Anton Leyland and Juan Balsani, before food writer Julie Biuso takes you and your tastebuds into the evening. Saturday afternoon is the perfect time to see how Mexico's Javier Carmona does it, then stick around for Eugene Hamilton of Euro and Shane Yardley of FISH. Sunday's no time to rest either, as Des Harris of Clooney and local Italian legend Antonio Crisci take the stage. Food show heaven.
Each will take you on an entertaining culinary journey, showcasing their skills and sharing cooking secrets as they prepare their critically acclaimed signature dishes - and if you're lucky you might just get to have a taste when they're done.
Hosting the Kitchen throughout the weekend is New Zealand MasterChef winner Nadia Lim, who says it's an honour to host the culinary talent on offer and the best way she can think of to celebrate the start of summer. She'll also be demonstrating at the fesival.
Nadia, what can people attending expect?
Food and wine worth celebrating. In my honest opinion New Zealand has some of the best ingredients, food and beverages in the world and Taste of Auckland brings it all together into a chic event that cannot be missed.
Some guest chefs you're excited to see in action?
I'm excited to see them all. They're sure to bring their own individual cooking styles and recipes. Ben Bayly will showcase the sophistication that's made The Grove famous, Des Harris will inspire with pure fine dining magic, and Annabel White is sure to entertain and make your mouth water.
What are you looking forward to most?
The food, of course. It's the only opportunity to taste some of Auckland's best food in one location. There's something for all foodies. And I know my husband is excited to sit in on the whisky-tasting sessions again this year ...
What sort of things might we see you cooking?
I'll be smoking seafood, curing salmon, making instant ice creams and more ...
What are your favourite ingredients to work with right now?
The best produce of early summer. I'm loving the new strawberries, watermelons and avocado. And my favourite flavour boosters are harissa and chipotle.
AN ITALIAN RIVALRY
Four very special dining events will be taking place in the Carlton Corporate Marquee, and those who love Italian food and culture will be particularly privileged to attend Saturday evening's "An Italian Family Rivalry".
Auckland's two great Italian food ambassadors, Antonio Crisci of Waiheke Island's Poderi Crisci and Sergio Maglione of Toto's, will go head to head to show off their much-acclaimed flair for la buona cucina, presenting a taster menu based on their signature dishes.
Guests will be welcomed in with a touch of opera, a glass of cuvee and canapes designed by the head chefs, who will keep diners entertained through the evening with stories of Italian life in Auckland, as they enjoy wine-matched dishes such as insalata di mare, porchetta and cannoli siciliani. Salute!
OUT OF AFRICA
Have a wild time while relaxing South African-style in the Savanna Cider Village.
The theme in the village is "Lemons and Yellow" to match the wedge of lemon you'll get in the neck of your Savanna Cider bottle, so expect a sunny, laid-back vibe and plenty of fun.
Chill out in the shade of the Lemon Lounge, have a game of petanque with your friends or just sit back with a refreshing cider and listen to the live music or the comedy stylings of award-winning Kiwi comedian Ben Hurley.
Savanna Cider is a premium dry cider, brewed in South Africa from Granny Smith apples grown in Elgin on the Western Cape. Like the African savannah where the name comes from, the Savanna folk are a little bit out there, so expect the same at the village. Bring a plate from the neighbouring restaurants or sample some of the South African snacks like biltong they'll have for you to try. The perfect place to recharge.
Josh Emett made his name internationally as an acclaimed Michelin-star chef, working alongside Gordon Ramsay in London, New York and Melbourne, but after more than a decade overseas, he felt the pull of home and established bimself in Queenstown with the acclaimed Rata, which he describes as a "local neighbourhood restaurant with a regional flavour".
Rata takes inspiration from "the southern landscape and everything that epitomises New Zealand," showcasing Emett's impeccable cooking skills and love of slow-cooked dishes and robust flavours.
Taste visitors will be able not just to see Emett in action, but to try his cooking and be the first to sample a new range of his gourmet Chef Series products.
"We're doing the ultimate summer session," says Emett, "based around a new line of Chef Series I'm about to release - gorgeous pork ribs, they're unbelievable, I'm quite excited about releasing those, and chicken winglets and that sort of thing, to run alongside our premium range.
"It'll be me doing a half-hour cooking demo, with 10 sessions over the whole period of Taste. We'll be doing taste-testers of all the new products, and Moa's in there with us, because you can't have a summer session with ribs without some beer to go alongside it!"
"We're also doing a bit of a giveaway where you can win a BMW for a month, a whole lot of our Chef Series products and a fridge of Moa beer for summer as well."
* This is a Viva promotion.