Say goodbye to the classic lamb roast and pavlova - chefs are on a fresh quest to redefine Kiwi cuisine as we know it.

High-end Auckland restaurants such as Clooney have been showcasing iconic Kiwi flavours in their menus, and many other eateries have been placing emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients.

This year Ponsonby restaurant Sidart has committed to using only New Zealand ingredients – from flour, to salt and olive oil.

As well as established chefs, foodies from AUT's Bachelor of Culinary Arts have developed a six-course menu that interprets the Kiwiana of today as part of their final assessment.


The menu features dishes such as the "chocolate fish", a smoked kingfish with cucumber and cacao, a reinvented Sunday roast and a Crunchie Bar and Marmite dessert.

AUT Culinary Arts student Gretchen Mercado said the menu was developed during several brainstorming sessions that sought to understand New Zealand's food identity.

The class decided it came from local produce and ingredient, not specific dishes.

"New Zealand has great access to dairy, some of the best meats in the world. It's a very special country in terms of produce - it's very diverse produce as well," Mercado said.

"It was good as creative play to think about iconic Kiwiana icons: the buzzy bee, Marmite, chocolate fish and those icons were a lot of the inspiration for our menu."

The menu was designed to be an experimental and unique exploration using Kiwi cuisine and the class stayed away from tried and true dishes.

New chefs Mary-Diel Intalan, Olivia Halliwell, Sherzan Pagdiwalla, Gretchen Mercado, Ana Bluck and Cale Yates. Photo / Dean Purcell
New chefs Mary-Diel Intalan, Olivia Halliwell, Sherzan Pagdiwalla, Gretchen Mercado, Ana Bluck and Cale Yates. Photo / Dean Purcell

"We didn't want to do pavlova or anything - you can't really do anything with it or change it. It was more fun to work with Marmite in a dessert, or work with a Crunchie bar and deconstruct it," Mercado said.

Owner of Auckland restaurant Clooney, Tony Stewart, said he didn't believe New Zealand would ever find a true identity to our cuisine as there wasn't enough history.


"I think we should be focusing on ingredients and allowing chefs to interpret and showcase their culinary skills and influences that they've bought back with them from overseas," Stewart said.

Clooney's canape menu is "a retrospective look at the Kiwi food culture through canapes" and features a bite-sized take on fish and chips and L&P and meat & three veg.

The meat & three veg features a single spring carrot, radish slices and a broccoli floret next to a dip, which is a lamb sweetbread emulsion.

Stewart said the menu was about having a bit of fun with the customer but also interpreting Kiwi icons through food.

"Quite a thought process has gone into them so I think people respect that, but also it just makes people think. We add a bit of history with the introduction of each canape and that just adds a slightly different perspective."

"We give them our reason behind it and a bit of a history on fish and chips. It might not be for everyone, but we're enjoying it."

Although we mightn't have a clear-cut food identity in New Zealand, Stewart said we have the ability to really focus and show people how good our ingredients are.

The AUT class has also gone for the social enterprise approach for their final assessment, using rescued food and fundraising for initiative EverybodyEats.

They were inspired by Kiwi chefs and community-based initiatives such as Al Brown's Garden to Table.

"As future chefs of the industry we thought we wanted to be like that as well, and give back to the community through our work," Mercado said.

The Kiwiana menu will be showcased at a public dinner on June 7 in AUT restaurant Four Seasons.