9 July 2020: ‘Kuka; Tastes of Beautiful Samoa’ is a show currently airing on national television in Samoa giving locals a glimpse into the kitchens of the nation’s top chefs while providing professional development opportunities for workers in the hospitality industry hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic.
Hosted by the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) Country Director, Cheri Robinson Moors, the show features chefs and cooks on location demonstrating their culinary expertise and creative flair for food-lovers across the country to enjoy.
Chef Jesse Lee of Mi Amor Restaurant in Motootua welcomed the chance to appear in front of cameras to create one of his most popular dishes – Grilled Moa Samoa marinated in tumeric and papaya leaves on a taro faalifu gratin (taro cooked in coconut cream) with salad.
Creating international dishes infused with traditional Samoan cuisine is a longtime passion for the Mi Amor Chef who prefers to source local organic ingredients for his menu. In the show he shares with viewers that he is forever experimenting with food, always perfecting and loves sharing his knowledge with others to show how simple it is to make delicious healthy food.
“I use a simple barbeque and simple trays to cook moa Samoa because I want to express the fact that you don’t need a fancy kitchen,” said Chef Jesse.
“I’m trying to show people we can make international dishes with our own local ingredients and it’s good enough to be considered fine dining.”
Like most of his colleagues in the hospitality industry, Chef Jesse says that business has been difficult since the Samoa State of Emergency was declared but he maintains an optimistic outlook of the future, making good use of the down time to focus on his health, family, friends and encouraging his staff to do the same.
“Business is hard, but we all got to remember this is a global problem and the whole world is in the same fight, but we have to ask our-selves are we willing to sacrifice our families, friends, mainly our elderly and children for money?”
“I use this time to spend with my loved ones, catch up on some of the things that I have wanted to do, take care of myself, read up on other things that could help my business like farming and help out my wife;
“I’ve joined the gym and eat healthy, catch up some personal time with God because those who have faith have nothing to worry about,“ adds the father of two.
“I have explained this to my staff and now we are slowly reopening with functions here and there, some have already come back to work after spending enough time for themselves and doing fea’us (chores) for the parents and catching up with their family and friends.”
Since the show aired Chef Jesse says he has received positive feedback of encouragement from the public with some reaching out to him for cooking tips. During these challenging times, the restaurateur believes that working together with other on this project will only enhance Samoa as a tourism destination
“KUKA was a great concept because we need to show that the cuisine on offer in Samoa is not only improving but we are able to meet international standards,“ he said.
“I have always believed in working together for the industry because our competition has never been with each other but with our neighbouring islands. After sandy beaches and sunsets… the next big conversation will be about food and this is usually the deciding factor for tourists.”
“All I want is to show is the true flavors of Samoa and I have seen this coming through in most restaurants and it’s great. We also should try to meet the efforts of our Samoa Hotel Association who are trying their best for the industry because when we come together and master each sector of this industry, we will all earn our bread.”
Produced by the Samoa Tourism Authority, “KUKA: Tastes of Beautiful Samoa” brings in 16 different chefs for cooking demonstrations that focus on a farm to table concept over sixteen, 30-minute episodes. The show airs every Friday at 9pm on TV1 Samoa.