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The History of the Matariki Dish Challenge

The Matariki Dish Challenge was created by Waikato Food Inc in 2015.  With the goal of raising the profile and calibre of food in the Waikato, Waikato Food Inc designed a competition that not only did this but also highlighted a truly New Zealand time of year - Matariki.

From the very first year chefs from around the Waikato took up the challenge, embracing local and discovering the many legends, traditions and ways Matariki is celebrated.

Past winners read like a who’s who of Waikato hospitality! 

The Matariki dish challenge was a highlight on the calendar for us here at Hayes Common - we relished the chance to incorporate native local ingredients into our menu in unique and innovative ways. the kitchen always thrived on the creative opportunity this posed. It also was an easy way to get people contemplating the meaning of Matariki; discussing the traditions that surround the annual event; and ways in which we can all take part and recognise Matariki at a National level. 

Lisa Quarrie, Hayes Common - 2021 Waikato Matariki Dish Challenge winners

The Matariki Dish Challenge was a real inspiration to learn about the history of Matariki - I had never heard of it before the competition came along.

To create a dish that was inspired by true roots of New Zealand food was a real journey.

Learning the traditional ingredients, techniques of cooking, preserving and preparation goes far deeper task than expected.

The challenge of bringing some of those flavours and techniques to the table with some premium local produce and tying that in with the Matariki theme was and really enjoyable task.

Our customers also really enjoyed the challenge , many returning to have the dishes again.

A seriously fun competition with nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Andrew Clarke (ex VSB) – 2 x Matariki Dish Challenge winner

The Challenges success was based on a number of elements. Challenging local culinary talent to push themselves and learn new things.  A professionally run competition that aims to raise the profile and calibre of the region’s food.  Great marketing and images which excite and entice people to get out and try something new.

When the Matariki star cluster rises into the skies, it signals a month-long nationwide celebration of the Māori New Year. In ancient times Matariki arrived at the end of the harvest and was therefore a time of plenty and celebration. Matariki translates to “tiny eyes” and “eyes of God”; the stars are the eyes thought to watch over the land and its people.

The Māori New Year signals a time for connecting with, and giving thanks to, the land, sea and sky and for turning to the future and celebrating new beginnings. The Matariki Dish Challenge celebrates the harvest grown, produced and served in our wonderful regions.