A modern take on traditional Māori kai

By Tema Hemi

A New Zealand couple who saw an opportunity to reconnect people with the kai of Aotearoa say traditional Māori kai has been largely overlooked by the public. 

Business and food entrepreneurs Jarred and Belinda Mckay are taking the hospitality industry by storm with their business, Puha and Pākehā. 

Belinda Mckay says, "We've had a feature in Aotearoa Cuisine Magazine last year and once again we are featured briefly again this year.  We've been on Whānau Living with Stacey Morrison [and] Cam's Kai.  We've had a feature in Cam's Magazine.  [In] Metro Magazine, we were named as one of the top food trucks in Auckland".

The couple was motivated by a Massey University study which found that the best way to improve nutritional health for Māori was to acknowledge the importance of traditional Māori kai.

Mckay says, "Literally, it's just all-consuming.  It's a passion that we both have.  I have a real passion about food and I'm so passionate about just really engaging kiwis with native New Zealand and Māori kai. 

"Everyone loves what we're trying to do, they love the flavours of what we're trying to do. We're not trying to be to fancy we really are just home cooks."

Puha and Pākehā began in 2014 when the duo took Māori and native NZ kai and added modern flavours.

Jarred Mckay says, "We are bringing the two food cultures together.  So the pūha is old school Māori kai and the pākeha are modern cooking methods."

Belinda has a background in hospitality, events and marketing while Jared (Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu) has a background in small business mentoring and training.

The pair has been operating their business from a caravan at local markets around the country.

They are now looking to open an office in Auckland over the next few months.