Rotorua's inaugural Matariki Dish Challenge started this week, and 11 local eateries have created stellar dishes to delight locals and visitors to the region.
Designed to shine a light on the region's culinary scene while celebrating Matariki, the Challenge runs for five weeks, allowing the public to taste their way around some of the region's eateries.
Celebrating local and discovering something new is at the heart of the Challenge, says event organiser Vicki Ravlich-Horan.
"As New Zealand develops our own unique food, storytelling and provenance are key," she said.
"The Matariki Dish Challenge is a wonderful chance for local eateries to start doing this and we are thrilled by the entries in this year's Challenge."
Vicki believes that with Matariki being an official holiday from 2022, "the Challenge offers a way for people to learn more about the significance of this time of year and celebrate local at the same time, and what better way to do this than through food".
RotoruaNZ business development manager Vanessa Wallace says it can only help the region's profile. "The Challenge has the potential to increase visibility and awareness of all of our amazing foodies, which can encourage a strong sense of pride amongst our local community as well as highlight to visitors the amazing cuisine we have on offer as a destination."
Te Arawa culinary star Pete Peeti agrees. "We have got the most amazing produce and food out there, and we need to highlight it and Matariki is a great way to do so," Pete said.
There is a range of dishes, from the Pullman Hotels' Barrel Room's twist on a boil up with Rewana bread, to Eastwood Café's wood-fired pizza with Terrace Kitchen Manuka infused lamb, roast purple kumara, fresh watercress and shaved Omania Farm truffles.
The Challenge entries represent the diverse offering in Rotorua with five-star resorts like Peppers on the Point entering alongside fish 'n' chip shop Rivers Catch with their dish, Whitu of pickled New Zealand mussels, Treetops Lodge Manuka honey and eggplant hummus and Lux organics purple potatoes on Rewana flat bread.
Relative newcomers Ani's Gin Bar have created a dish, Nga taonga o te whenua, which is Puha pasta sheets filled with foraged mushrooms, Harakeke and ricotta to make Raviolo sized ravioli, tossed in a venison shank and horopito ragu.
Digraj Baghela from Dukes Bar and Restaurant says it's an opportunity. "Entering this Challenge not only gives us a platform to show our food but also showcase to the world about the best sustainable food system Aotearoa can offer," Digraj said.
Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge
Runs from June 13 to July 17
For a full list of participating eateries go to www.matarikidishchallenge.co.nz/rotorua
@matarikidishchallenge on Facebook and Instagram