Kai and culture: Food stories from Aotearoa

Exploring New Zealand’s local food cultures and contemporary food issues with essays, profiles and recipes.

Featuring Fleur Sullivan, Jonny Schwass, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Alex Davies, Giulio Sturla, Angela Clifford, Monique Fiso and many more.

Food tells a story. It contains the expression of a place and the way the land, people, ideas from elsewhere and webs of activities intersect. It is a great connector – we all share in the experience of food, albeit in very different ways.

Freerange – in collaboration with writers, chefs, producers and others in the food industry – is excited to have released  Kai and culture, a book that takes a look at how our food impacts our culture and the people involved in creating local food identities. It also explores some of the  contemporary issues involved in the growing and making of our food. A cultural cook book, if you will.

So what is New Zealand food culture and what is particular to it? A contemporary New Zealand food identity is emerging (and continually evolving). It helps us to understand our place as a Pacific and multicultural nation, celebrates our ingredients and alters ideas from elsewhere to articulate this time and place.

Food involves simple physical processes; it can promote engagement; its social and environmental impacts can be powerful – especially in a country where food is a major economic driver. Through essays, profiles and recipes, Kai and culture canvasses a range of views and stories from local food cultures:  food resilience and resourcefulness; questions of access, security and sustainability; how creativity, innovation and appropriation can play out in food; food sovereignty and the desire to reconnect with where it comes from; land use; quality as opposed to commodity; waste minimisation; proximity to source and ideas of terroir; how we get our food information. And how these are all interconnected.


Freerange wishes to thank AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism and Meadow Mushrooms for their early support of this project.

Please see below for our list of contributors.

Image of locust slider courtesy of Anteater.

Contributors and essays

From identity and social challenges through to environmental concerns, the essays give historical context and look to the future, and talk about who eats what and why, how we share and grow our food, and how food culture shapes our nation. With contributions from:

  • Alex Davies (Gatherings, chef)
  • Dr Siouxsie Wiles (Auckland University, scientist)
  • Jonny Schwass (chef)
  • Fleur Sullivan (Fleurs Place)
  • Mark Revington (Ngai Tahu, editor)
  • Rachel Taulelei (Kono, entrepeneur)
  • Dr Tracy Berno (AUT, culinary arts)
  • Rebekah Graham (Massey University)
  • Henry Hargreaves (food photography)
  • Dajiang Tai (Cheshire Architects, architect)
  • Monique Fiso (HiaKai, chef)
  • Angela Clifford (Eat New Zealand, The Food Farm)
  • Aaron McLean (Stone Soup, food writer and photographer)
  • Peter Langlands (Wild Capture, forager)
  • David White (MEAT, filmmaker)
  • Brie Sherow (food and wine writer)
  • Giulio Sturla (Roots Restaurant, chef)
  • Elizabeth Dean (Cornell University, CALS global fellow) & Dr Ann Brower (Lincoln, environmental management)
  • Nik Mavromatis (Muddy Water/Greystone wines, marketing)
  • Ivan Donaldson (Pegasus Bay Wines, pioneer)
  • Fiona Summerfield (Think Different, food writer)


This section combines beautiful images and narratives from creative producers and projects that create identities and contribute to our food culture. These are examples of the ways some of the ideas contained with the essays are being applied. These include:

Ahika Kai, Anteater, Black Estate WineryCultivateFood Innovation NetworkGarden to Table, Harris MeatsKaiboshKai Pasifika, Kai Ora HoneyKoanga Institute, Lewis Road Creamery, Otakaro Orchard, Pomegranate Kitchen, Residential Red Zone Rehabilitation, Stone Soup, Yellow Brick Road.


A recipe tells a story, says something about the person making it and what we like to make and share. This is the DIY component of food culture, an immediate way to engage with our food culture through the simple physical processes of food. The recipes have been sourced from contributors and form part of this book’s food web, in an effort to celebrate our ingredients and tell stories through food. A potluck!