Festival vibes at this year’s Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge

If you’re more the spectator type and enjoy a good brew and some chilled live music, then this year’s Local Wild Food Challenge will be sure to please.

The festival returns to Mahy Reserve in Ōhope on Saturday, 2 February 2019 with a fresh new look and a host of options for those attending. Whakatāne District Council Marketing and Events Coordinator, Julie Allerby says this year’s event will offer something for everyone – from competitors, to families, to musos and beer aficionados.

“At this year’s festival there will be a craft beer garden featuring Mata Beer and new vendors, Mills Reef Winery and The Mount Brewing Company,” she says. “There will also be a great variety of food trucks and stall holders offering an array of options for everyone.

“The music line-up is looking very enticing with Del Pacifico, the Randy Matthews Quintet and Santiago Rebagliati with Camilia all confirmed for the event.”

Del Pacifico is an eight-piece band that plays the diverse music with a South American sound. The band is based in Tauranga with members from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Venezuela.

American Clarinettist, Randy Matthews, leads the Tauranga-based Randy Matthews Quintet – a jazz ensemble which specialises in providing easy-listening music for festivals and events.

Santiago Rebagliati, who is currently playing with fellow South American multi-instrumentalist Camilia Lenhart, brings fun, funky and upbeat Latin roots music to the festival, combining acoustic guitar with in-the-moment rhythmic loops, producing a contagious sound.

The Local Wild Food Challenge includes food demonstrations, master classes, mystery box challenges, kids’ activities, a tasting BBQ and more, all at a stunning venue which celebrates the best of our District.

To allow for the new programme and growth of the event there will be a small cover charge for adults, but kids will remain free. Tickets can be purchased from the Eventfinda website for $7.69, or pay $10 on the day.

Whakatāne’s Local Wild Food Challenge is part of a worldwide series of events, held in locations as far away as Finland and Italy.

Find out more about the Local Wild Food Challenge on whakatane.com »

Meet the 2019 Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge judges

Wild food enthusiasts planning their dishes for next month’s Local Wild Food Challenge can take inspiration and a few tips from the esteemed 2019 judging panel. Hailing from Wellington, Rotorua and Whakatāne, this year’s judges bring wide-ranging experience in the food sector and a passion for the abundant wild food in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Peter Peeti

Presenter, Hunting Aotearoa TV series and Producer, Hikoi NZ Ltd

Original and current residence?
Spent most of my life in Mourea in Rotorua, Ngati Pikiao turf. Grew up with whanau, cousins and friends who taught me how to harvest food from the area. Food like trout, eels, kewai, pikopiko, puha, watercress, mushrooms, berries, nuts, fruit from the neighbours trees, wild pigs, deer, ducks, turkeys and the list goes on!! No one starves in our village!

Wild Food Judge Credentials – what is your connection with food?
As a qualified Chef, I found cooking various foods to taste delicious is what I’ve always enjoyed. It tastes even sweeter when you gather the kai. From harvest to preparing to cooking the meal and finally watching people eating your kai is what keeps me connected to the food, the land and to the people.

Your favourite part of Whakatāne?
Diving for seafood around the Whakatāne heads. There’s always a surprise for the keen diver lurking beneath those waters. Various kaimoana that all start with the letter “K” Kina, Koura and Kuku need I say more!

The most under rated ingredient is…
The humble Kahawai should be respected a lot more by anglers. A fish that’s easy to target, very versatile, delicious as smoke fish, tasty as raw fish and my favourite simple boiled kahawai steaks with just salt, onion and butter. There’s even a secret to boiling believe it or not, DON’T BOIL TOO HARD!, allow to simmer gently for a softer result.

Favourite wild food?
Bbq venison steak entree (LARGE) with a wild pork and puha boil up for main. That smell of wild pork singed with puha or watercress simmering is such a draw card for my nose which leads to me salivating at the mouth. The smell is as good as a freshly baked rewana bread or banana cake!!

What is the biggest mistake/s in an aspiring Local Wild Food Challenge cook can make?
Please challengers keep it simple and make sure we can taste the main ingredient. That’s it from me and remember I’m always hungry so don’t be shy!

Mawera Karetai (Whakatāne’s Wild Cook)

Mum, wife, PhD student, lecturer, champion for the environment, lover of wild food 🙂

Original and current residence?
I am originally from Dunedin, but have lived in the North Island for 31 years. I currently live in Whakatāne with husband Dave, and our kids, Beau, Alexi and Jack. This is my forever home – I will never live anywhere else.

Wild Food Judge Credentials – what is your connection with food?
Wild food is at the centre of our family life. We hunt, fish, gather and grow food as a family. We don’t buy meat or fish at all – everything comes from the bush. At this time of year we are also living out of our garden.

Your favourite part of Whakatāne?
The whole district and all the people in it.

The most under rated ingredient is…
A really good quality smoked paprika. It makes everything taste better!

Favourite wild food?
Um, that is almost impossible to answer. At the moment I am desperately in love with hare. It is so succulent at this time of year.

What is the biggest mistake/sin an aspiring LWFC cook can make?
We all love food and we want to taste the star ingredient. Please don’t lose the flavour of the ingredient you want us to taste.

Pete Gasson (judge Local Business Mystery Box Challenge)

Chef and Owner Tuscany Villas, Whakatāne 

Original and current residence?
Sydney, Australia, now Whakatāne

Wild Food Judge Credentials – What is your connection with food? 
Ex-chef RNZN, ex CEO of Bondi Junction RSL and current owner of Tuscany Villas Boutique and Giordano’s Italian BBQ

Your favourite part of Whakatāne? 
Ohope Beach – West End and River Edge park

The most under rated ingredient is… 
Mushrooms – the meat of vegetarians

Favourite wild food?  
In Australia, Kangaroo with wattle seeds, but here in New Zealand I can’t go past the venison from the local hills, rich and gamey with a watercress salad.

What is the biggest mistake/sin an aspiring Local Wild Food Challenge cook can make? 
To be safe and conservative with ingredients. Experiment with food, take risks with flavours and see where it takes you. Your dish may be something no one else has thought to do and be our next winner

Shannon Patangata (AKA The Cake Guy)

Participant in the Great Kiwi Bake Off T.V. series.

Original and current residence?
Originally from Edgecumbe, currently reside in Wellington.

Wild Food Judge Credentials – what is your connection with food?
I mostly bake, but love all the umami flavour profiles.  A good feed of kina and paua

Your favourite part of Whakatāne?
Edgecumbe of course is my favourite part of Whakatāne! (got to represent)

The most under rated ingredient is…
Salt, seriously, it makes food sweet or savoury taste better!!

Favourite wild food?
My repertoire of the wild foods I’ve tried aren’t too elaborate but I’ve made mash potato into a dessert cake… once… My dad makes really nice brawn (boiled down pigs head) which I used to hate but grew to love!  Fried eel, fish roe and a simple raw fish in brine and onions has to be some of my all time fav’s!!

What is the biggest mistake/sin an aspiring Local Wild Food Challenge cook can make?
Overcooking!!…unless it’s meant to be tough and/or dry, there’s just no excuse.

Maurice Lees

Owner and baker, Bread Asylum, Otakiri 

Original and current residence?
I was born in Whakatāne and grew up in Matata. We now live back in the Awakaponga area after a five-year stint in the UK. The property we own is a magical one-acre in the countryside with mature trees and a babbling brook running through the middle of it. I originally bought the property about 35 years ago.

We built our boulangerie (French bakehouse) four years ago using fabulous 200 year old windows from a pub in England and the stunning front door from a house in Paris, circa 1890. The internal lights and fittings include original vintage industrial fittings and antiques from all over Europe that we collected and shipped back to New Zealand in a container.

Wild Food Judge Credentials – What is your connection with food? 
My connection with food is varied. I have always loved food and cooking, and ate out a lot when I travelled on business in earlier career positions. My current artisan bread business is based on “wild yeast”, microscopic creatures that have to be fed and watered to keep alive.
I trained in traditional bread making with a French baker friend with 30 years experience. I also completed a course at the prestigious UK School of Artisan Food at Welbeck Estate in the Sherwood Forest area (yes where Robin Hood hung out).

Your favourite part of Whakatāne? 
We have the best climate in the country.

The most under rated ingredient is…
Black pepper has to be in everything.

Favourite wild food
Oysters!!!

What is the biggest mistake/sin an aspiring Local Wild Food Challenge cook can make?
Overcooking the dish. To me cooking is about timing. Overcook and not only flavours can change or be lost but also the texture of the dish can be adversely altered.

The Local Wild Food Challenge is at Ōhope’s Mahy Reserve on February 2nd, with gates opening at 2pm. Challenge entrants must prepare dishes using wild ingredients sourced from land and ocean. This year entrants who register prior to the event will receive a produce bag filled with foodie treats from local producers.

Buy your early bird tickets online »

Find out more about the event »