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Meet top Samoan Māori chef Monique Fiso

World renowned Samoan Māori chef Monique Fiso spent seven years cooking in Michelin star restaurants in New York. In 2015 she returned home to New Zealand and established Hiakai – one of Aotearoa’s finest restaurants. This week she sat down with Johnson Raela at her restaurant in Wellington to talk about the release of her brand new book.

“It’s just surreal that it’s done, because there was so much that went into it, and at moments it definitely felt like it was never going to get done,” says Monique.

The book, also bearing the name of her restaurant, takes readers on a journey of Māori cuisine, and features some stunning imagery of Monique foraging for food and delicious fine dining cuisine.

Since returning from New York, Monique’s appeared in numerous TV shows, won multiple awards, Hiakai was named in Time magazine’s 100 greatest places of 2019, and she’s shown Gordon Ramsay how to make an umu.

Monique’s cooking journey started as a child growing up in Porirua and helping her Samoan Nan on Sunday mornings with the To’onai for after church.

“Up at dawn, start saying the prayers, the moment the prayers are done it’s like, ‘Right, we need to get the taro going, the fa’is going, chop suey…”

Although she’s put Māori cuisine on the global culinary scene, she’s adamant that her Pacific roots also influence her cooking.

“There is a really strong Pacific influence that goes into a lot of the things we’re doing, but what’s been really cool is the most recent menu we’ve done has had a really strong Samoan influence.”

Watch the full story above.

Hiakai: Modern Maori Cuisine by Monique Fiso is out now.

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