NZ farmers need to embrace food culture – chef Ray McVinnie
New Zealand farmers need to become foodies if they are to reach high end consumers, celebrity chef Ray McVinnie says.
Farmers had to fully understand the end use of their product, how it should taste, what it should be used for, and how to cook it.
It would also help build bridges with urban consumers and other cultures, he told industry leaders at the launch of the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Growing Our Future, Primary Industries Champions programme at Mystery Creek south of Hamilton.
McVinnie is one of 100 ambassadors for the programme, which will see him promote the primary industries as a career option for the next generation.
For high quality food production to be maintained, it needed enthusiastic people and the Primary Industries Champions Initiative would attract the young who were renowned for their enthusiasm.
“The more awareness there is about the primary industries, the better. To me, the primary industries mean food.”
New Zealand should celebrate its food culture. It was as dynamic as “legendary” food cultures in Singapore or Melbourne and while it lacked the long history of other countries, it was the enthusiasm that counted, he said.
“Our food culture is a bit different. Instead of having a national set of dishes that signify New Zealand, we have a set of ingredients that we can do all sorts of things, [there is] nothing wrong with that.”
For discerning consumers, it was not so much the ‘what’ they bought but the ‘how’, McVinnie said.
“That is the direction we have got to be. I think we are already doing it, but I think we could do a whole lot more.”
The backlash against processed food products was the most noticeable social trend around food and consumers were more careful about what they ate.
They lived in an “experience economy” and what was produced had to deliver a multifaceted experience.
“A product obviously has to taste good, it’s got to be high quality and it’s got to be ethical, safe and sustainable.”
It had to have a provenance that New Zealanders trusted and found attractive, he said.
“Provenance could be our secret weapon. I think it already is, but we could do a lot more of that.”
That along with New Zealand’s international green reputation provided New Zealand with a distinctive story.
“That was a hugely important part of any culinary experience delivery,” he said.
It was something to celebrate and to be used in marketing.
“If you want to stand out, you have to be different in some ways and we are.”