The end of the beginning...
Story telling through food is not a new concept, different cultures, famous chefs even our own mum have used food as a means of explaining to us the importance of a period in time, a tool to reminisce or to show a certain perspective of the world.
Whenever our mum makes fried bread we remember how she would describe our grandmother making huge batches for her 13 children on their farm in Waima. How she would find the perfect place in the sun to let the dough sit and prove before watching it turn from white to crunchy gold in the beef dripping. We picture this when we devour it to this day.
We have experienced many amazing meals on our journeys overseas. Our meal at Noma told the story of seasonality in Copenhagen. Using ingredients fresh if they were in season paired with fermented components from seasons past. The tale of the harshness of Denmark winter, and the softness of spring time clearly told on the plate.
From on top a hill 3500 metres above sea level in Peru, we sat eating potatoes cooked in the earth they were grown, served with a soft cheese made from the milk of the goats that grazed the potato farms and topped with a foraged wild herb salsa. Sharing a meal with the local farmers we could feel the importance of land, people and history from the most humble and unforgettable of lunches.
We believe that food is one of the most powerful of story telling methods. It uses all five of your senses and it engages a piece of your soul like no other innate urge known to man. On a physical and spiritual level.
After travelling almost the entire breadth of Aotearoa on our book tour then stopping in over 50 international destinations we came home with a desire to tell our own culinary story. Thus, the idea for 'The Creation Dinner' came to be.
Our Maori culture has always been a natural component to our cooking. It is what grounds us and the memories of our childhood centre around familiar flavours of smoke, sea and earth. We decided to take our diners on a journey to share with them the first Maori legend we were told. The creation of heaven and earth, Ranginui and Papatuanuku; the Skyfather and Earthmother and to use the food to help tell this tale.
We sat down and wrote the script for our dinner, referring back to our old books we read as children. Carefully curating our rendition of this well known legend. We had the honour of roping in our whanaunga Scotty Morrison to voice the script (thank you Stacey for fitting us into his busy schedule) and the sound technician from our TV show, Frank to record our tale. Next we created the video that is played to accompany each part of the story. Kasey is now an adept video editor. Then came the fun part....the food.
In the beginning there was nothing but darkness... this is how the legend begins. This is how the video begins, this is how the meal begins.
To represent the long, deep, black night we created a dish of darkness. Oysters one natural with a dressing of black vinegar, black garlic and soy and one oyster with an activated charcoal batter served with a creamed blackfoot paua sauce. The manifestation of this nine course menu was exciting and enabled us to apply our culinary creativity to make each dish a unique chapter of the story whilst also making sense and keeping the balance for our menu.
Each of the nine dishes were carefully thought through and each made sense in how the legend unfolds.
On top of this we wanted to highlight the world class produce we have to offer here in New Zealand. Travelling the world made us appreciate home like never before and the quality of produce that we have access to in this country is something to be celebrated. Not only did each course help to illustrate the legend, we also wanted a food producer that we love to be showcased in each dish. From sustainable seafood from Yellow Brick Road, perfectly formed kumara from Kaipara kumara, renowned shellfish from Cloudy Bay Clams, gate to plate lamb from Flaxbourne Pure, artisan chocolate from Honest Chocolat and world class Hailala vanilla, NZ owned water from One Pure just to name a few. We wanted the provenance and quality of each of these ingredients to shine.
The wine choice was easy for us. We have had a relationship with Tohu wines since we won Masterchef and they are more like family now. It is truly an honour to be able to match each course with wine made from a Maori, whanau owned company who make truly exceptional wines and walk the talk when it comes to Love for the land, respect for the sea. They are also story tellers who's wines have their own legends to reveal.
We wanted our guests to experience a sense of mystery from the moment they arrived. Our sister Michaela, our host for the evening was to gather our guests at 'the meeting point' a bar where welcome drinks were served. The idea was for the guests to board a bus and then be transported to the secret location where the dinner was being held. We knew we wanted it to be intimate so we limited the seats to only 30 per night and for everyone to share the experience and sit at one grand table.
We also wanted to train and develop a team of young women to deliver the dinner. Introducing them to the world of fine dining and opening the door for them to experience and execute the level of service we envisioned. Our cousin Billie trained to operate the sound, visuals, music and lighting (which is curated to match each course as well), our cousin Leanne came on board to train coordinate staff and handle logistics. We also brought in local girls to help us in the kitchen Meteria, Hannah, Xanthe and Jayda and of course Mum was in the kitchen making the rewena bread. We formed our team, trained and educated them in the art of hospitality.
We knew that we wanted to host the first ever dinner somewhere of significance to us. Our Great grandmother Matemoe Amy Bird or Nana Mattie to us, was instrumental in the developments down in Ohinemutu, Rotorua. A magical place where steam billows up through the drains and where we spent much of our childhood. She was instrumental in the building of Te Ao Marama. A place she wanted for all of the ladies and gentlemen to go for a cup of tea and coffee after they attended church at St Faith's next door. Like a wharekai but for the church. She along with my Great grandfather Maurice have stained glass windows there to commemorate them. It was an easy choice for the first ever edition of 'The Creation Dinner to be held.
We transformed the room to make it feel intimate and the ornate carvings were lit to showcase their beauty . Our opening weekend in Rotorua was the start of an amazing and truly fulfilling journey we had started begun with "The Creation Dinner"
Our next stop was Auckland. My mum is from a small town in Northland, back in the day when the people of the Hokianga travelled to Auckland for work they wanted a meeting place for them to stay connected. They bought an old rusty shed in the heart of Point Chevalier and down a long, non descript driveway you will find Te Mahurehure Marae which is now run by my mum's cousin. The perfect place for us to host the Auckland edition
This was a big one for us as we hosted a media night. We invited social media influencers, suppliers, chefs, food writers and critics including Sid Saharawat, Lauraine Jacobs, Kelli Brett, Alice Neville, Stacey and Scotty Morrison and our most honest critics of all, our Mum and Dad. It was our first foray into the competitive culinary scene in Auckland. With our team, we delivered our dinner to amazing reviews from people with whom we hold in the highest regard. It was the highlight of our career and helped validate our vision.
Our next destination was Wellington. We travelled our whole team down to the capital to share our dinner with our next set of guests. For this location we had a very special venue indeed. We had taken over the Bellamy's restaurant inside parliament. As the guests got closer and realised they would be dining inside this building Michaela said they couldn't believe it. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect location to host the Wellington edition of 'The Creation Dinner'. It was truly incredible to think that this idea we had concocted from the living room of our parents house in Maketu was now being hosted in the Beehive.
We have truly loved creating and travelling this dinner around the country and also training and bonding with our awesome team. Most of all though, we have loved sharing this journey with all of our amazing guests. We have appreciated all of you who have come to enjoy this one of a kind dining experience. We have had guests come more than once and we continue to have people contacting us about how special the night was for them. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.
We will be hosting the final 'Creation Dinner' on December 7th and 8th in the Bay of Plenty at a secret location that is truly a special place to us and a dinner not to be missed.
The meeting point is:
Tickets available www.karenakasey.com/tickets
We look forward to seeing you there