Putting Pacific flavours on tourism map

Renowned regional chefs Robert Oliver and Colin Chung cooked up a storm using Pacific ingredients in Apia this week as part of the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum.

The duo led a special chefs training workshop promoting innovative uses of Pacific ingredients and advocating in favour of greater consumption of local products.

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The two-day workshop was a joint collaboration between the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Samoa Tourism Authority.

It was attended by a total of 25 trainees consisting of chefs, assistant chefs, students from the Australia Pacific Technical College and kitchen support staff.

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“The Chefs Training Programme presents an important step in scaling up SPTO’s ambitions to establish the region as a prime gastronomic destination,” said SPTO chief executive officer Chris Cocker.

Seeing the potential of the Pacific cuisine as a niche tourism product, SPTO conducted a series of regional culinary trainings last year and this year as pilot projects.

“The success of these workshops, as attested to by hotels and local chefs, and the delicious meals produced from local ingredients called for more than just a re-visit.”

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The 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum addressed value chains from farm to table, work that will no doubt go a long way in helping establish the South Pacific region as a prime gastronomic destination.

On the final night, chefs Oliver and Chung produced an inspirational menu to showcase a range of the region’s most delicious products and demonstrate the capacity for Pacific foods to not only delight the senses, but also teach important lessons on quality, provenance and preparation.

The workshop culminated with a dinner under the theme of “Chefs for Development: Contemporary Island Cuisines” where participants in the Agribusiness Forum were served meals prepared by the chefs based on organic ingredients supplied by local agribusinesses.

Cocker noted that tourism and agribusiness were natural partners.

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“Agribusiness is an important sector for the tourism industry. Combining tourism and agribusiness helps to create a sustainable business model while also building stronger communities.

This win-win merger and stronger links between the agriculture and tourism sectors, will bring healthier products to families, create thousands of jobs, and inject millions of tourism dollars into farming communities.”

He emphasised that this would not be a short-term endeavour. “I am keen to see the future of agribusiness in the Pacific, particularly with regards to the tourism industry”.

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The development of agribusiness in the Pacific depends on local products being able to enter into new markets and expand their growth in existing ones.

The regional tourism market presents a particularly lucrative opportunity for Pacific agribusinesses due to the high visitor numbers enjoyed by the islands and the spending power of tourists.

Additionally, achieving sustainability in the tourism and agriculture sectors depends on the promotion of local sourcing, in order both to decrease the reliance on imported goods, and also to stimulate local production and protect the unique heritage of the traditional Pacific food culture.

Food and gastronomy play a major role in the tourism experience, and can significantly enhance the gains derived from stronger linkages between the agricultural and tourism sectors.

As a result, chefs as champions and ambassadors of local foods and cuisine are also receiving greater recognition from policymakers and the development community.

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