The Unsettled Palate: Understanding the Expression of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Cultural Identity in Auckland Restaurant Cuisine

Diver, Hannah Emily
Berno, Tracy
Richardson, Robert
Item type
Degree name
Master of Gastronomy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

Following the aphorism by Brillat-Savarin (1825/2009), “tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are” (p. 15) and Fischler’s (1988) concept of incorporation in which “food is central to our sense of identity” (p. 275) this research investigates Auckland chefs’ understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand’s food identity, with the overall goal of understanding more about how they reflect it within their restaurants. The three questions which led the research were: (1) In what ways do chefs reflect their own understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand’s identity within Auckland’s urban restaurant setting? (2) What is the relationship between Aotearoa New Zealand’s varied and complex identity and the cuisine that chefs serve? (3) How do notions of settler identity impact chefs’ interpretations and self-ownership of Aotearoa New Zealand cuisine? This research utilised a relativist ontology, a constructivist epistemology, and the paradigm of interpretivism. Research methodology techniques included the qualitative descriptive approach. A non-probability purposive sample of chefs participated in semi-structured interviews. Following this, a thematic analysis of the data was undertaken. Key findings include chefs reflecting their own understanding of New Zealand’s identity through the ingredients and produce they work with and the narratives they seek to tell. New Zealand’s complex identity can be seen through the ways in which these Auckland chefs actively include and champion flavours and techniques from all around the world, including the indigenous ingredients and Māori cooking methods. Notions of settler identity have impacted these chefs’ interpretations by instilling their love and respect for baking and preserving, seeking to recreate the New Zealand bach, and ensuring that they acknowledge their own histories through décor choices and only taking self-ownership when appropriate. Though this dissertation does not seek to crystalise one true authentic view of Aotearoa New Zealand cuisine, it concludes that it can be seen as a big boil-up which has only just started to bubble.

Publisher's version
Rights statement