Kakano is sowing the seed for Māori cuisine

A young Māori woman with a love of food, the land and community is behind a new café in Christchurch New Zealand.

A young Māori woman with a love of food, the land and community is behind a new style of café that has opened in Christchurch New Zealand. 

Kakano is the Māori word for seed and it seems fitting that a brand new Christchurch café focusing on traditional Māori kai (or food) is called just that. 

Grown from the ground up in New Zealand’s second largest city, Kakano is the brainchild of Jade Temepara, a young Māori mother who says the idea came about after working in communities and seeing the benefit of a focus on health and food. 

“I guess my obsession for food and feeding my five kids healthy food leads the way and continues till this day,” Jade says. 

Jade’s passion for food and her Māori heritage is evident in everything Kakano does. 

“We serve titi  [New Zealand sea bird] daily, cooked the way it's always been, slowly and together in the same pot. We take extra care to cook them with the best and freshest local veggies.”

Eating from the land is a central value in Māori culture and Jade stays true to this mantra in her cooking. The team use native seaweeds, forage for fresh herbs and use ingredients straight from the cafe’s extensive garden. 

The fertile land in the Christchurch and Canterbury region on New Zealand’s South Island makes this a lot easier than it sounds. Jade heads out to harvest wild foods from nearby Banks Peninsula and around the town of Akaroa, a 90-minute drive from Christchurch. The area is abundant in fruit, nuts, seaweeds, mussels and everything Jade needs to create Māori cuisine. 

Kakano serves up traditional Māori dishes like raw fish, using fresh New Zealand seafood. You won’t find introduced species on the menu here such as beef or lamb, in fact the only protein served is native to New Zealand such as titi (also known as muttonbird) and koura (crayfish).

Jade’s whanau (family) harvest titi from the bottom of the South Island once a year and to be able to do so, they have to have come from a particular bloodline of chiefs. Family is important to Jade, as are her cultural traditions. 

“Māori cuisine has its unique style of preparation and a focus on where it has come from, the story behind it or the legacy,” Jade says. “Ours is a mix of pre-European and a fusion of what we bring together to complement our natural world with the resources we carefully take.”

It helps that Jade has a green thumb, so to speak. She won the NZ Gardener of the Year title in 2011 on the back of her initiative Hand over A Hundy, a one year challenge to young families to learn to grow and produce their own vegetable gardens. The project aimed to equip families with knowledge to pass to the next generation, which in essence is the same way she got the passion for gardening.

“My Poua (grandfather) Colin passed on his five generations of seed potatoes to me,” she says. “They are so rich in history that I have been in love with seeds ever since, I currently have 280 varieties.”

Of mixed Māori and Paheka heritage, Jade grew up in Southland before moving north to Christchurch. Over the last 16 years as Jade and husband Wiki have raised their tamariki (children), she has gained a deep passion for her whānau and community. 

Jade has been gardening and growing food for her family for more than 10 years now. As she has gained knowledge of the importance and practice of these skills, she has also learned how to save seed, cook, preserve, pickle, create raw food and ferment. 

Whanau (family) is a very important concept for Māori people and Jade’s love of family comes through strongly when she speaks about Kakano. 

“We want to build food security and resilience here for all those who want to grow traditional kai [food]. We know we have to grow the seeds and then keep them. This is the one thing I think I will do for the rest of my life, bring heritage seeds to the wider community.” 

Jade also loves the concept of ‘farm to table’ but she likes to take it one step further saying "seed to table" is what excites her. Her first exhibition garden in the 2012 Ellerslie International Flower Show won her a silver medal.

“Knowing where the seed that grows our food was sourced and the story and preparation behind the harvest is vital,” Jade explains. “Although Kakano is just starting that part of the journey, we use local organic farmers where possible and love trying new things and different food.”

Kakano likes to give back to the Christchurch community so in the evenings Jade offers classes for basic to skilled cooking abilities. They also run seminars, workshops, training, te reo (Māori language) lessons and have guests to showcase what this amazing community has to offer.

Kakano is not only a great café to try another culture’s delicacies but also a place to learn about the Māori people’s relationship with food and the land. 

“Traditional kai is more than just feeding people it is an essence of hard work, stories, oral traditions and a reason to keep the environment clean and protected.” 

Beyond the taste, Jade firmly believes that food is the "mauri" or life force of human existence.

Jade Temepara’s favourite raw fish recipe

Soak your freshest tarakihi or hoki fillets in fresh lemon and raw apple cider vinegar overnight (enough to cover the fish).

Drain the liquid and chop roughly into small bite size pieces.

In a bowl add coconut cream, lemon juice, fresh coriander, red and green pepper, peaches diced, salt and pepper. 

Serve cold after chilling for 3 hours. Eat with a nice cold beer or herbal tea!

Background: Kai – Maori food

For centuries Māori - the indigenous people of New Zealand - have lived, worked, and loved the rugged yet fertile lands of their ancestors.

Traditional Māori believed that the earth was the giver of all life. From the soil, came food and that same food was cooked beneath the earth.

It was accepted that the people who were born on that land inherited the right to produce from it and to protect it for the benefit of all.

In traditional life, New Zealand's Māori people were hunters, gatherers and crop farmers who harvested their food from the forest, stream, sea and garden.

Contemporary New Zealanders still enjoy traditional Māori foods and delicacies, and Māori kai continues to develop.

Background: Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch is New Zealand’s oldest and the South Island’s biggest city. Once renowned for its neo-Gothic architecture, the city’s built heritage was significantly damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.  Now the ‘garden city’ – hailed by Lonely Planet as one of the top places in the world to visit in 2014 – is on the way to transforming into a modern and creative city hub filled with retrospective art, pop-up container centres, innovative bars and restaurants and the world-first cardboard cathedral.

Christchurch is a city of art, culture and inspirational storytellers that also serves as a gateway to fun-filled South Island adventures.  It has an international airport and is within a couple of hours by road to all the major regional destinations.

Dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook (3,754m), and surrounded by the Southern Alps, a chain of mountains bigger than its European namesake - Canterbury is a place of vast spectacular landscapes offering diverse outdoor nature pursuits and thrilling adventures.