Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Fine dining raising allergy awareness for Pasifika and Māori

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

An Auckland Chef is helping raise awareness of allergies in food through a series of dinner evenings hosted from her Onehunga Kitchen.

Chef ‘Ana Seini Ma’ilei Savio, who runs healthy food outlet Gia’s Grab&Go with her chef husband, held her most recent dinner in April, offering a selection of healthy plant-based food choices.

“Our menu is completely gluten free and is completely dairy free. It’s intentional to not have so many allergeis on our menu,” ‘Ana says.

“We also have a plant-based version of our normal menu so that it caters for everyone.”

The April event was third hosted by ‘Ana, the gourmet dishes were cooked in her corporate kitchen in Onehunga and served by friends and family in a glamorous marquee on the premises.

Ana’s Polynesian inspired menu. Photos: Gia’s Grab n Go FB

Patrons were treated with a six course Polynesian-inspired tasting menu, developed and cooked by five talented Pasifika and Māori chefs.

The reason ‘Ana holds these events is quite simple, it’s for her young daughter Gia, who has had numerous anaphylaxis attacks.

“Gia’s severely allergic. So, she carries an EpiPen for dairy and kiwifruit,” ‘Ana says.

“Kiwifruit is not recognized as a common allergy, but dairy is, and eggs. And she was allergic to gluten, but not so bad. So, she’s grown out of that.”

Allergy New Zealand Chief Executive Mark Dixon says we need more events to raise awareness to all communities especially Māori and Pacific.

“For the last five years we had a complete strategy change at board level and knew that we had to reach a much wider audience. And the audience that we’re targeting is Māori and Pacific,” says Dixon.

“Māori, Pacific, Asian are up to three times more than Pakeha likely to present at an emergency centre with allergic symptoms or anaphylaxis. They were treating the emergency centre as their EpiPen because they couldn’t afford EpiPens.”

Photos: Gia’s Grab n Go FB

Volunteering at the event was Josephina Folau who gives her time for the cause. She has a five-year-old son who suffered a traumatic event when he was a baby.

“I think it’s something that you’re not aware of until it happens to you. It actually did happen with my youngest son, Israel,” she says.

“I was breastfeeding him for five months. I was about to go back to work,” she recalls.

Unaware he was allergic to dairy, she gave him milk formula and he suffered an anaphylactic attack.

“He was limp, that’s when we knew something was really, really wrong,” she says.

“The ambulance came really fast and administered the EpiPen and he came to. He was crying, which is a good sign, but he reacted that way, because he was allergic to dairy.”

Parents Bonita and Morris Misilisi with their late daughter Edyn. Photo: Bonita Misilisi FB

Also supporting the event was Bonita and Morris Misilisi who sadly, five years ago, lost their only daughter to a fatal anaphylactic attack.

“Tonight was about awareness as well and I think there were a lot of good speakers tonight. I really, really wish she could be here tonight to just taste all this lovely food and have more places where the food is safe.” Says Morris

With another event planned for July, ‘Ana and her team are on a mission to continue raising awareness around food allergies.

“We’re not just chefs that cook, but we also raise awareness and we’re aware of what we do, which sets us apart from everybody else who just cooks normally.”



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