Māori chef uses his skill to provide nutritious meals to those in need

  • Australia

An exceptionally talented Māori chef will head to Australia today with a goal of establishing a production kitchen that could potentially feed over 90,000 homeless in central Melbourne.

Erueti Tutaki has already proven his commitment to this cause through volunteering his skills for the past five years, every weekday for 15 weeks of winter to the ‘Feed the Need’ programme, supported by Massey University’s School of Food and Nutrition.

The programme provides hot, nutritious lunches to decile one and two school children during the colder months. Mr Tutaki is integral in ensuring the kitchen is prepped every day for the team to provide 1500 servings that volunteers deliver to schools.

On top of committing his expertise to this cause Tutaki who calls himself the 'Native Chef' operates his own business which specialises in teaching tourists the traditional culinary uses and health benefits of native plants and cooking Māori dishes.

Tutaki (Tainui, Ngāti Rereahu, Maniapoto) grew up in Bennydale and says he understands the plight of vulnerable children.

“My whole family saved up to get me out of the countryside and into study to pursue my art. Without that backing from those around me I don’t know where I’d be today,”he says.

Massey University’s nutrition specialist Professor Bernhard Breier and the Massey dietetics team have worked closely with Mr Tutaki who is also a Massey University graduate and ‘Feed the Need’ since 2013, providing comprehensive nutritional analysis of the meals.

Professor Breier says thorough research conducted by Massey University students will hopefully help the programme expand to feed 5000 children next year.

"There is a huge need, not just for nutritious food in schools, but for education about nutritious food – and that’s where Massey can really make a difference,” says Breier.

While operating a business and providing his time to ‘Feed the Need’, Tutaki also teamed up with international chefs to fundraise for the homeless in Melbourne.

The ‘Feed the Need’ programme is wrapping up for the year in New Zealand until winter rolls around again, but Tutaki's work will continue when he travels to Melbourne in a bid to assist in setting up a major production kitchen there to help feed the homeless.

He says, “I’ll be teaching them everything I know, and basically getting them up to speed in terms of what we do here in New Zealand. Our goal is to set up a production kitchen that can feed 95,000 homeless in central Melbourne.”

Tutaki departs for Melbourne today and expects to be there until the end of the year assisting with this project.

Te Kāea reporter, Mania Clarke will speak with Erueti prior to his departure and will have more on this story tonight at 5:30 and 7pm.