Grant Allen: Kai time on the marae (+recipes)

1 comment
More than food is at stake when marae teams battle it out in the kitchen, finds Grant Allen

Nadia Lim and Pip Wylie judge the dishes. Photo / Michael Craig
Nadia Lim and Pip Wylie judge the dishes. Photo / Michael Craig

As much as I hate reality television and in particular, reality television cooking shows, I was alerted to one of a different ilk by some friends who had been involved in the making of Marae Kai Masters. Sebastian Hurrell was part of the film crew and Pip Wylie and Nadia Lim were judges.

Screening on Maori TV, this series brings teams together from all over New Zealand to represent their home marae, and cook it out on national television.

The mana of the contestants' marae is at stake (and that's a very important issue ) and they also have the opportunity to win substantial prizes that will benefit their home-base kitchens.

The show's producers, Kay Ellmers and Nevak Rogers, travelled the country to select contesting teams and were treated to the ultimate in hospitality. Eight teams were selected from almost 100 marae.

Nevak believes it brought on the early birth of her baby - "there was no room left!" Her daughter Mina is now 7 months old.

Hospitality is paramount in Maori culture. It signifies status on the visitor and brings prestige to the marae. Hospitality is intrinsic to the organisation of the marae and involves the whole hapu or tribe.

If you follow my column you will know that this is the way I like to cook. I'd rather cook for 20 than two and believe you can provide by using what's on hand. Your hospitality is about the table you set and the atmosphere you create.

It's not just about the food you put on the table - it's about the spirit with which it is done. How we feed visitors and show our hospitality with good grace is a universal concept.

If you have been on a marae and, as New Zealanders you should have been, you will have witnessed the major production that swings into action.

Unknown numbers of people will be arriving. Behind the scenes, "the troops" will be called into play, the head ringawera (marae cook) is in charge of the kitchen and will rally the key team.

People will be dispatched to gather food and someone will be appointed to manage the koha to be used to buy provisions.

You will be expected to provide a cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, a final feast and food any time a new group arrives, no mean task if you are in a place where kitchens often have minimal facilities.

Kitchens are the heart of the home and the hub of all gossip. Nevak wanted to capture the irreverent banter she experienced as a kid on her home marae in Manutuke. This is a real feature of the set. In a commercial situation such as a restaurant, short and sharp is often the dynamic. It's about keeping the big picture in mind and this is no more true when you have to spontaneously feed a multitude.

Tempers may flare, egos must submerge to deliver and in the end it's not about the individual, it's about the reputation of all.

This is never more evident than on a marae where everyone's mana is at stake.
The series was filmed at Te Mahurehure Marae in Auckland's Pt Chevalier. It is not a "traditional" hapu-based marae so it meant production wouldn't be halted if there was a tangi and it couldn't be perceived as showing favour to a particular iwi.

Different challenges were set for each episode, the teams judged by Nevak, co-presenter Te Kohe Tuhaka and a guest judge.

I talked to Pip Wylie (head chef at Ripe) and Nadia Lim (2012's MasterChef winner) about their judging experience.

Apart from the many laughs they had while being part of the production, both were impressed with the supportive environment they found themselves part of and the great personalities they encountered .

Nadia noted the positive vibe of the whole experience, a contrast to the cut-throat atmosphere of MasterChef.


Hinga and Lloyd Whiu's Paraoa (Bread)
Kylie Kara's Herb Fried Bread
Karen Williams' Stuffed Roll Pork Strips
Haki Porima's Puha Smoothie

You can watch Marae Kai Masters on Maori Television at 7.30pm on Thursdays. It is repeated at 9.30pm on Fridays.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 23 May 2017 10:16:21 Processing Time: 1231ms