Indigenous | Kai

Celebrity Māori chefs create Matariki feast in Rotorua under the stars

The culinary and cultural team Karena and Kasey Bird, Irihei Walker, and Jamus Webster. Photo / NZME

Top Māori chefs Kasey and Karena Bird are celebrating Matariki by creating a unique four-course dining experience to be enjoyed underneath the night sky.

Hosted by Te Pa Tū in Rotorua, formerly known as Tamaki Māori Village, the four-hour culinary event will consist of four courses of nine dishes to represent the nine stars of Matariki, immersed with cultural performances, ancient concepts, and delicacy rituals linked to the cluster of stars in the sky that mark the start of the Māori new year.

“This is an opportunity to present our kai in a unique way, to be enjoyed with some storytelling throughout the evening,” says Kasey.

“We are also excited to be working with Te Pā Tū chefs – of Māori and international whakapapa who are passionate about sharing what Matariki means to them.”

The Te Arawa sisters became household names when they won TV's MasterChef in 2014. They regularly create recipes and use ingredients that honour their Māori heritage and will be surprising diners by making an appearance on selected nights.

They designed the special menu in collaboration with the executive chef at Te Pa Tū and Rotorua’s own Irihei Walker.

“There has been wonderful collaboration behind the scenes,” Walker says. “In creating this dining experience, we are drawing from our whakapapa, stories and values connected with Matariki and te ao Māori.”

The experience will begin with an Ahi Taitai, a traditional fire ceremony led by Jamus Webster, a champion performer who won first equal for best male leader at the recent Te Matatini kapa haka competition.

Diners will then step into a natural tawa forest canopy, for kai horotai (canapes) inspired by the Matariki cluster, also known as Pleiades or Subaru to other cultures. Horotai include delicacies such as smoked eel pate on crispy fried bread and laden with tangy pickled shallots and fire-roasted topped with creamy watercress and crispy onion.

Other delicacies on the menu will include fish roulade with nori and kawakawa powder, watercress, and coconut puree, and kawakawa tapioca, hāngī cooked lamb served with watercress salsa verde, confit cooked duck legs with a fermented plum sauce, and a steamed pudding parfait with a kūmara custard.

Each course can be paired with wine or non-alcoholic beverages made by Māori companies or winemakers.

Te Pa Tū head Kiri Atkinson-Crean says this cultural degustation is a treat for anyone wanting a memorable way to celebrate this phase in the Maramataka.

“Te Pa Tū is a world-class venue known for combining the celebration of our Māori culture and performance with superb hospitality,” she says.

“Our team has worked with huge heart creating this very special Matariki feast for all to enjoy and to celebrate the beginning of the Māori new year.”