HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - THE ALATINI FAMILY
PATRICA, OCEAN & THE ALATINI FAMILY
FAMILY FOOD FIGHT CONTESTANTS
TONGAN / MAORI
I'm a mum of 8 and my heritage is Maori / Palangi of Ngapuhi and Tainui descent. Our children are Tongan and Rarotongan so we are very diverse in cultural flavours and recipes through family bloodlines. Ocean is our eldest child and together we competed on a food show and were known as The Alatini family. Ocean is 26 yrs old and engaged to Vanel Ram. He is of Fijian Indian heritage. We also have 2 grand-daughters that are Maori and Niuean / Samoan so we are pretty blended in a great way.
My husband Sam and myself come from large Maori and Polynesian families. Originally from Manurewa and Otara we have strong ties with a number of sporting codes within NZ and Tonga. Sam grew up in the village of Kolovai and immigrated to NZ when he was 9 years old, where he lived with his family on East Tamaki Road in Otara. His Dad Malakai represented Tonga back in the 70s. Sam and his brothers Tevita & Tony followed in their father Malakai's footsteps .... and then there is Pita, a former All Black. So you can say rugby really is in our blood.
Sam and I met through the love of rugby. I played netball in the Bendon league for College Rifles back when Ana No'ovao was captain but changed codes and went to rugby. I then played representative rugby for both Counties Manukau Womens & the NZ Maori 7s finally meeting my Tongan Adonis Sammy and settling down to create this amazing family we have today.
We made the big move to Perth, Western Australia nearly 9 years ago. I'm a full time Mum and we decided as a partnership that one of us would always be there for our kids. They are too precious a gift to hand over to strangers to bring up. We have an amazing Nana who lives with us (my Mums big sister), so we live and love the extended family practices of our forefathers. Nana Hariata - such a blessing to us and our kids.
Along the way I have always loved to cook. It has always been calming for me when I entered a kitchen and I think it was born through helping in the marae wharekai's of my family up in the Hokianga, especially during a Tangi.
The process and connectedness with the whanau meant that along the way traditional food recipes were being passed down and then learning & discovering continued with the joining of my husbands family. I've been blessed to have been exposed to a number of Polynesian cultures and continuing the passing of family recipes to my children.
I'm nurturing my kids to create food that is delicious, nutritional and beautiful to the eye.
You were recently on the Australian Show called 'Family Food Fight' - can you tell us what the show is about and what you had to do to get on it?
We recently competed in a television program called Family Food Fight here in Australia for channel 9.
There were 8 teams made up of 2 family members consisting of Siblings, Mother & Daughter, Husband & Wife, Sisters, Brother-in-laws and Mother/Son from diverse cultural backgrounds competing for the title of Australia's best home cooks.
The prize was for $100,000 and was filmed over 7 weeks.
The process to get on the show was lengthy but quick if that makes sense.
I applied online and then it became a whirlwind for the next 2 weeks. We had to be interviewed, then audition. We competed against other teams in a blind cook off - we were given 1 hour to create a dessert and a main. The Judges would then taste test and make comments and if they liked you, you got invited to the next stage which all happened on the same day.
We were invited to proceed to the next stage and interviewed in front of the Executive Producers and a panel of 5 others.
We then had to meet with psychologists to check if we were mentally stable and then we went through a lot of red tape, filling out forms and even had to take a 500 test questionnaire + personality tests. It was heavy and overwhelming. At one point Ocean considered pulling out because it was too much but thankfully she prevailed. It was a chance in a life time right?
I have to say it was really interesting watching the other cultures perform. They could all cook their own cultural food really well but struggled with anything remotely different. Their personal knowledge of other diverse, cultural foods was very limited.
Having the background & experience of our kiwi / Polynesian flavours definitely helped us stand out and having the ability to prep all protein and kaimoana helped us tremendously. In terms of practical knowledge of prepping all seafood, meats, poultry, not much phased us. If anything the fact that we laughed to much and we rarely stressed in the kitchen didn't work in our favour - not enough drama.
We got to showcase some pretty cool recipes that represented our Tongan, Rarotongan & Maori heritage and we were able to show them our smoking techniques in the kitchen. If I had been able to dig an emu, hangi pit and cooked a meal in that I would have. Australians now know how to make Faikakai, Mainese, Chop Suey, Raw Fish, Curry & Roti.
We won some massive challenges - Home Sweet Home Cook & the Celebrity Dinner althought we didn't take out the top prize.
For the most part Australians fell in love with us just being us.
While we were competing Sam held it down while we were away for 5 weeks - working and doing his Daddy / Mum roles. We have never been apart so the time away was quite nerve racking for me. Not once did he ever put doubt in my mind nor did he ever let me know if they were struggling without me. They did amazing while I was away in Melbourne.
Were there other Pacific Islanders or Polynesians on the show & were you able to represent your Pacific heritage through your cooking?
There were no other Polynesians on the show itself and decolonising the screens here in Australia is something I have become more passionate about since the experience. Its created an acute awareness of the imbalance of indigenous people on prime time television.
How has life been after the show and do you have anything coming up that we should look out for?
Life after the show has encouraged me to be more proactive in showcasing Kiwi Pacific Kai. Ocean and I are in the process of marketing our family Wonton and Chop Suey recipes. Its going to be called" One Tonne mamas," (say it fast) a play on words but they're delicious healthy and versatile. Wontons as entrée or wonton soups. 3 flavours pork, chicken and prawn, then for the vegans, vegetarians a tofu mushroom flavour. The Food Truck movement night markets are huge here and we'd eventually like our own food truck with 'One Tonne mamas - Kiwi Polynesian kai'
I'm currently writing a recipe book to get our Polynesian Kiwi Kai recipes out to the wider Australian public - a tribute to the Mamas, Kuia's and Nana's of Aotearoa and the Pacific. I'm aiming to have it out at the end of this year.
It's pretty exciting. I want it to be a pleasurable experience and for it to be organic in its evolution so we can be mindful and do our cultural heritage proud.
Try the Alatini's Salt & Pepper crab with Mainese Potato Salad