Last June the start of something special happened. A large group of artisans, growers, makers, chefs and hospitality owners from around the Bay of Plenty came together at Toi Ohomai. Sure, there were a few stars, Ben Bayly, known for his promotion of New Zealand food, and Kelli Brett from Cuisine spoke. And, of course, there was great food to be eaten. But at the heart of that day was the creating of a community, bringing together those who work tirelessly and passionately every day to grow and produce amazing food in this region.
The outward goal of the day was to excite these makers of food about the planned festival in April – Flavours of Plenty Festival. But it was the start of so much more, from telling the region’s food story to encouraging collaborations and building pride.
Bringing together the vision was the team at Tourism Bay of Plenty with the help of Stacey Jones. Stacey, an import to the region, is passionate about the Bay of Plenty, especially the food on offer. She also knows a thing or two about creating amazing events. If you have been to a Kitchen Takeover dinner you will know what I am talking about!
“We want the Bay to be known for more than avocados and kiwifruit,” says Stacey on the real reason behind the festival. A quick look at the 19 events in the inaugural festival and the variety on offer is clear, from sourdough and cheese to beer and truffles.
If a list of ingredients on show beyond avocados and kiwifruit aren’t a sign of success, the collaborations and sense of community created has to be. As Stacey points out, “those collaborations don’t just happen”, it takes an event like Flavours of Plenty to provide the catalyst. The hope is this sense of community will continue to grow beyond the festival.
Tickets are now on sale for the first Flavours of Plenty, and as we go to print, New Zealand is in the red setting. Tourism Bay of Plenty General Manager Oscar Nathan acknowledges the predictions of high COVID cases have raised concerns about events. “We’ve been having a lot of discussions with stakeholders in the past two weeks, gauging the sentiment within the local hospitality sector, and they’re confident they can deliver each festival event safely within the current red settings. In fact, they’ve said what they really need right now is for the public to get behind this initiative. We’re encouraging foodie fans from around the country to take up this opportunity, with the confidence that if anything has to change later, full refunds will be issued (minus the standard booking fee).”
Festival director Rae Baker says the COVID-19 policy that’s being applied to each event is robust.
“We have worked with event partners to ensure red traffic light requirements can be adhered to, keeping people as safe as possible, and we’re satisfied that we can run the festival at all levels of the current COVID-19 Protection Framework,” she says.
“While we are in red, each event will operate within the 100-person limit, and if we move back into orange by the time the festival takes place in April, we will be able to revert to unlimited event capacities. Events at all levels will require a vaccine pass, with non-vaccinated patrons able to attend the Tauranga Farmers’ Market and the Mount Mainstreet Urban Market.”
Oscar points out “the flow-on effect of a festival like this will bring much-needed custom for a wide range of local businesses – and it’s becoming obvious just how vital it is to support them, now more than ever. We expect this festival will become a recurring annual feature in our regional event calendar and will continue to benefit the Bay for years to come.”
So, what’s on the menu?
There is cheese rolling with Mount Eliza Cheese, and there is brewery tours at the likes of Mata brewery in Whakatāne and Slab Brewery in Tauranga. If beer is your thing, join Ian and Brent from Lumberjack Brewery for a gorgeous five course dinner with matching beers at Oscar & Otto.
Learn the art of sourdough making with Mount Sourdough.
Discover the story behind the outrageously successful Pepper & Me with a fun filled night at Elizabeth Café hosted by Cherie Metcalfe, the owner of Pepper & Me, Kit & Co and Cain & Abel knives.
Discover the amazing produce in the bay as some of the top restaurants put together set menus highlighting local food. Fife Lane in the Mount has a three-course lunch and C’Vue Restaurant Taste of Plenty shared platters. Clarence Bistro chef Perrin Yates has curated a 5-course tasting menu with matching beverages from Mills Reef and Mata Beer, while Ian Harrison at Sugo is veging out with a plant-based Kings Feast Lunch.
Local culinary superstars Kārena and Kasey, in collaboration with Kitchen Takeover will use traditional cooking techniques with modern twists, whilst celebrating the Bay’s plentiful produce for a hāngī at Persimmon Lane in Te Puna.
For the full line up of events and to buy tickets go to www.flavoursofplentyfestival.com