Inaugural Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge launched

The stars will shine brightly on the culinary scene in Rotorua this winter with eateries across the city encouraged to create a special Matariki-themed dish.

The wero, or challenge, to Rotorua chefs was officially presented Tuesday afternoon, with nearly 100 guests gathered at Peppers on the Point for the launch of the city’s first-ever Matariki Dish Challenge and Matariki Food Trail.

Rotorua restaurateurs in attendance included Eastwood, Pullman Rotorua, Urbano Bistro, Ambrosia, Poco, The Regent Room and more. Rotorua producers ranged from Volcanic Hills Winery, Copperhead Road Distillery and Pink & White Geothermal Gin, to Mon’s Flavors (picutred above), Kai Rotorua, Omania Truffles, Lux Organics, Volcanic Creamery and Otaika Valley Free Ranges Eggs.
The launch provided an opportunity for teams from local dining establishments to meet and mingle with local food and beverage producers and talk about how they might collaborate for this challenge or even work together in the future.

Chefs Pete Peeti, and sisters Kasey and Karena Bird (pictured above with Copperhead Road Distillery), plus founder and editor of Nourish magazine Vicki Ravlich-Horan, and others talked about the significance of food and Matariki for Māori.
Kingi Biddle, Rotorua Lakes Council Mātauranga Māori specialist and MC on the day said, “Matariki shines on everyone. Matariki belongs to all of us and, seeing the smiles in the room, Matariki is grounded in the room.”

The event will run in Rotorua from 13 June to 17 July, whereby participating cafés and restaurants throughout the city will add their iteration of the Matariki food story to their menus.
RotoruaNZ business development manager Vanessa Wallace says, “The Matariki Dish Challenge provides a wonderful opportunity for our local hospitality sector to participate in an event that celebrates Matariki and what it means for Aotearoa New Zealand. The challenge is new to Rotorua and the wider BOP region which is exciting in itself. We know that locals and visitors alike will also enjoy the chance to try new dishes from many of our favourite eateries.”
Run in the Waikato for the past seven years, event organiser Ravlich-Horan says, “the challenge has been hotly contested among Waikato chefs and we hope the same will be the case in Rotorua.”
All eateries will be mystery judged, with the top three being re-visited by the head judge to determine the 2022 champion. Diners can participate, too, by rating the dishes online to determine a People’s Choice winner.
Ravlich-Horan 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!”
Wallace reiterates this sentiment, “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.”
For more information, visit the Rotorua Matariki Dish Challenge page and follow RotoruaNZ on Facebook.


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