Taste New Zealand: Three weeks of food, beverage and culinary talent at the New Zealand Pavilion

What better way to begin a new year than with a celebration of all things food?! We did exactly that at the Aotearoa New Zealand Pavilion with Taste New Zealand – a three-week culinary showcase of our nation’s premium food and beverage offering from 13-31 January.

Featuring some of our nation’s most talented chefs, the festival included live cooking demonstrations and challenges, special dishes at Tiaki restaurant and curated dinners in collaboration with The Tasting Class, introducing New Zealand’s diverse and delicious culinary landscape. Some of New Zealand’s top wines were also on show alongside Antipodes water.

We were lucky to have Chef Sid Sahrawat of Cassia and Sid at The French Café fame and MasterChef New Zealand winners Kārena and Kasey Bird join us for the first and final weeks of Taste New Zealand with Dubai-based Jesse Blake taking the lead during the second week. Our Tiaki chefs Laura-Jane, Michael and Esther also joined in the action, cooking up some of Tiaki’s favourite dishes in the demonstration kitchen.

Check out some of the highlights below.

Week 1 | Chef Sid Sahrawat

Taste New Zealand began with an action-packed week led by Chef Sid Sahrawat! Celebrated for fusing the vibrant flavours of his Indian heritage with fine-dining principles and the best of New Zealand produce, Chef Sid has spent more than 12 years making his mark as a formidable chef and restaurateur on the Auckland dining scene.

Alongside Lindsay Trivers of The Tasting Class, Chef Sid took guests on a journey around key regions with four delicious dishes and beverage matches during his Culinary Tour of New Zealand event. This special menu included deep-sea Marlborough scampi, Silver Fern Farms beef fillet, chocolate and Comvita Mānuka honey bavarois with Zespri kiwifruit, and of course, a Kāpiti cheese platter.

As well as his special dish of caramelised lamb rack with horopito seasoned crème fraîche and parsnip crisps available at Tiaki throughout the week, Chef Sid jumped in the demonstration kitchen to participate in a MasterChef-style cooking challenge.

Week 2 | Chef Jesse Blake

We were thrilled to have Dubai-based Chef Jesse Blake join us for the second week of Taste New Zealand, sharing his love for kaimoana (seafood) with a special dish and cooking demonstration.

Born and bred in Aotearoa New Zealand, Jesse Blake has made waves with his creative, produce-driven culinary approach on a global scale. Since relocating to Dubai, Jesse has shaken up the city’s dining scene as the Executive Chef behind LOWE and Head of Research & Development for Dubai-born hospitality group, Bull&Roo. 

For #TasteNZ, Chef Jesse created a one-of-a-kind combination of smoked mussel dip, horopito butter poached scampi and Māori fry bread. Yum!

Week 3 | Chefs Kārena and Kasey Bird

The final week of Taste New Zealand was led by Chefs Kārena and Kasey Bird! Charismatic sisters and chefs, Kasey and Kārena shared New Zealand's unique connection to the land and sea through their food. Having grown up in the beautiful beachside community of Maketu – a place where the community comes together to grow and source fresh, seasonal produce – Kasey and Kārena have turned their passion for cooking into bright careers, giving them a platform create dishes that celebrate their Māori whakapapa and upbringing.

During Taste New Zealand, the sisters led a bespoke Matariki Dinner – a four-course menu inspired by the story of Matariki, a star cluster that signals the beginning of the Māori New Year. The evening featured their Hāngī-inspired dish of Mānuka smoked Silver Fern Farms beef fillet with stuffing, sweet potato and creamed watercress alongside cultural entertainment by a kapa haka group.

Going back to their MasterChef roots, Chefs Kārena and Kasey participated in a MysteryBox cooking challenge during which they created their version of a New Zealand surf and turf using beef and scampi.