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2023 Festival highlights from the Visa Wellington On a Plate team

May 24, 2023

It’s a wrap for the May edition of Visa Wellington On a Plate, and for the festival team, it’s a great time for us to reflect and share our favourite moments. As much as we enjoy seeing you get out there eating curious, we love it too!  Get to know the people who put the festival on and enjoy an insider’s insight into what they enjoyed most. Grab a cuppa, have a read, and we look forward to seeing you again in August!

Kristen Kish at Floriditas
Whakapapa of Your Kai at Havana

Festival Director - Sarah Meikle

I am fortunate enough to have been involved in every single Visa Wellington On a Plate since it started back in 2009. I was there for the first 14 day festival, then to see it grow to 17 days and then stretch out right across the full month of August a few years ago. I’ve seen the festival evolve and change throughout this time, listening to the industry, responding to feedback from consumers and coping with the inevitable changes that Covid-19 brought on us all. Just under two years ago at an Industry Hui, we heard the feedback loud and clear that it was time to split the festival into two, it had just got too busy, and so, it’s been pretty incredible to see the launch of the May edition of festival programming in 2023. 

Real highlights for me have been the Opening Event with our friend Matt Abergel from Hong Kong, seeing literally 1000’s takeover a Miramar laneway with the Miramar Taco’ver, dining on the delights of US Chef Kristen Kish At Floriditas, Melbourne-based Chef Victor Liong at Loretta and Indian Chef Prateek Sadhu at Chaat Street. But what has got me even more excited is the incredible local talent that told New Zealand’s food stories – Kasey and Kārena Bird with Taiao, Chefs Josh and Mitchell with the team at Havana and Whakapapa of your Kai and probably my favourite this year, Tom and the team from Capitol collaborating with Michael and the wonderful team at KC Café on Orientable. What a treat it’s been! I can already see that moving the Festival Events, Dine Wellington and Cocktail Wellington programme to May has brightened up the city in May and can’t wait for the second installment with Burger Wellington presented by Garage Project in August, alongside the fabulous, Beervana. #EatCurious

Matt Abergel of Yardbird HK Pop Up at Cinderella
The Miramar Taco'ver at Double Vision Brewery with Taco Addicts, The Food Lab and Viva Mexico

Head of Programming - Beth Brash
The opening weekend had some rock star pop ups with the Yardbird Hong Kong Collab at Cinderella and the Miramar Taco'ver, which kicked the whole festival off with a bang. It felt like, even for those who weren't aware of the change, were able to instantly get involved

Sarah and I took our Mayor Tory Whanau to Whakapapa of your Kai, which was a collab with Havana and two young Māori chefs Josh Hunter and Mitchell Tierney who blew us all away with their take on Māori kai, arriving to Havana with fresh titi stuffed with rewana, flounder, and whole cabbages over coals was such an amazing visual. Truly one of my most favourite VWOAP events I've ever been to. 

Flowing on from this event, chef Hoon who is the Head Chef at Havana posted about his time learning about Māori kai on instagram and what an incredible experience this was for him. It got me thinking about the legacy of these chef collabs. It's great that the public get to try food from these amazing chefs, but it is all the stuff that happens in the background that is just as important - the life long friendships between the visiting chefs and our hospitality industry, them coming to Wellington and broadcasting our amazing city to the world, their advocacy for the city, our industry and the festival to their peers. 

L'arte di Mangiar Bene' at Cicio Cacio

Programming Coordinator - Rose Cunningham
The May Festival for me has been quite a whirlwind! I was lucky enough to attend many fantastic events and pop ups, with my highlights being 'L'arte di Mangiar Bene' at Cicio Cacio, and the opening event with Matt Abergel of Yardbird Hong Kong - still thinking about those skewers! 

I also loved how creative everyone got with the theme this year - from Absolutely Avo-licious at Zelati, to the more literal take of 'Blue Gold' at Pravda. Looking forward to what the next round of Visa Wellington On a Plate for 2023 will bring...

Kasey and Kārena Bird Kitchen Takeover event - photo credit Jamie Troughton / dscribe media

Head of Business Development - Penny de Borst
The key word for my festival experience is collaboration. My highlights are all about talented and creative people working together to celebrate the connections created through food – the wedding feast Waza at Chaat Street, the surprise and delight of Sex and Fast Food, our international chef collaborations, the partnering of Wellington icons Capitol and KC Café, our Sunday Roast event with the Comedy Festival… 

Gillian Monahan, Head of Marketing & Communications
Mosaic was divine but I can’t stop thinking about the kewpie brioche at Kasey and Kārena’s Taiao Food of the Gods.

Mosaic at Field & Green
The Sausage Project at Myrtle

Office Support Coordinator - Brandie Stephens

It was so good enjoying the first serving of the Festival in May this year! The line up was spectacular and while I was quite busy, the number of Pop Ups meant that I was able to enjoy the festival around my schedule.

The Sunday Roast at Parrotdog Brewery was so much fun! The atmosphere was so communal and relaxed. I almost felt like I was at a Sunday family dinner, only the jokes were better and less personal.

Field and Green’s Pop up Mosaic was so amazing and each dish was so thoughtful and bursting with flavour. All the small dishes made it the ideal sharing lunch which is always the best type in my book!

I managed to pop in to both The Sausage Project at Myrtle as well as The Pickle Diner at Garage Project to enjoy a fun weekend lunch with family. Both venues were fun and relaxed, pay as you consume and it was fun to share some sausages, sandwiches and beers.

Everybody Eats Next Gen Cookoff really amazed me! The concept and purpose of Everybody Eats fills my heart and being there you can tell, every person there whether volunteer, chef or consumer, is so hyped and happy to be part of it. The kai was yummy, I instantly felt connected with the people I was seated with and conversation and good vibes flowed.

I spent a very busy Saturday at Eat Your Words and fangirling all day over the amazing authors, creators and moderators. I sat in on On Eating Meat as well as Modern Aotearoa Kai and came away inspired to seek out more information about my food. It was great to see the panellists connecting with fans as well as each other and the festival within a festival atmosphere was a great one to be amongst.

OrienTable at Capitol
The Doughnut Wagon Pop Up at Silverstream

Marketing Manager - Kelly Fleming

Welcoming back the international chef collaborations this year was a highlight in terms of programming, it was fantastic to see chefs from all over the world, at the top of their game, descend on our incredible city and create some magic with our local venues. 

My personal highlight however, was a collaboration born a little closer to home. The Capitol and KC Cafe 'Orien-TABLE' event was outstanding. With Micheal (KC Cafe) and Tom (Capitol) blending their personal and beloved cooking styles and Kate's (Capitol) beyond perfect wine matching - it was truly a meal I'll never forget. 

Honorable mentions go to this year's Pop Ups, once again drawing in the people - Mosaic at Field & Green, Matt Abergel of Yardbird Hong Kong and Cinderella and The Doughnut Wagon by Dough Bakery. 

Next Gen Cook Off at Everybody Eats

Digital and Content - Victoria Saunders
As a newcomer to the festival team, I was hyped to be part of Wellington On a Plate this year.

The Next Gen Cook-Off showcased the creativity and skills of up-and-coming chefs at some of Wellington's top establishments. The atmosphere at Everybody Eats is sure to give you the warm-fuzzies.

This remarkable initiative provides hundreds of nutritious meals each week to those in need. Dining at Everybody Eats not only satisfies hunger but also allows patrons to make a difference through Koha Donations, supporting the ongoing operation and spreading appreciation for the comfort of a warm cooked meal.

A collaboration worth mentioning was the Lumina Lamb chef collab, where renowned Australian chef Louis Tikaram joined forces with local talent at Charley Noble. This event showcased the culinary excellence of New Zealand and demonstrated our country's commitment to leading the way in the food and wine industry. The pairing of outstanding dishes with Black Estate wines created an unforgettable dining experience.

Food brings the city together, but the dedicated hospitality and diverse culture are the success behind this celebration of this festival and our unique culinary capital.

The Crustacean Congress
The Miramar Taco'ver at Double Vision Brewery

Beervana Manager - Ryan McArthur

My highlight is going to be pretty self-serving!

In late 2022 some crustacean biologists from NIWA reached out to me about showcasing the Wellington Beer scene to scientists coming to the 10th International Crustacean Congress at Te Papa in May. They suggested a Crustacean Beer competition. Beer Comps are a dime a dozen (or is that a dollar a dozen?) so it wasn't that exciting. Until they explained the prize: Naming rights to an unnamed species of crustacean!

And they had me.

So we gathered some Wellington breweries. They produced beers inspired by or using crustaceans. On tap at the Malthouse for the public and at the welcome event at the congress.The combined votes of he public and scientists have crowned.... well, you'll have to wait to hear who won.

And then there was the Taco-ver at Double Vision Brewing. Tacos with my son and father and some chili beer! heaven.

The Cray Cray Lunch at the InterContinental
Crumbed Tongues and Tall Tales at the Salty Pidgin

PR & Communications Manager - Jade Lucas

For opening weekend I went for the big name pop ups - Matt Abergel at Cinderella was spectacular those grilled meatballs with the egg yolk sauce were incredible and so was the Miramar Taco’ver with Lucho Martinez alongside Taco Addicts, Food Lab and Viva Mexico - I still think about that fish taco. 

From going in for Kosher & Spice last year, Mosaic at Field & Green was an absolute must for me and I was not disappointed. Chef Laura’s continued exploration of her heritage through food is phenomenal. Crumbed Tongues and Tall Tales at Salty Pidgin was a hoot, hosted by Te Radar the food was quite simply exceptional and the tales of New Zealand’s food history (which featured a lot of mutton) were hilarious. 

Jp McMahon at Logan Brown was exceptional, in particular the crayfish Chawan Mushi.  While I’m on the topic, the Cray Cray Friday lunch at the InterContinental was a fun and decadent celebration of crayfish all ways - fried, poached, topped with caviar, wrapped in a raviolo, in a hot buttery roll, in a bisque and just simply halved and grilled. There were plenty of events I wish I made it to, but hey there’s always next year!