News and Events

Maara Kai competition a recipe for success

November 24, 2022

Lucy and Sophie share their story of food production. Fresh is best.

A hugely successful Maara Kai competition 2022 was recently run in Gisborne that provided a showcase for great gardening, thoughtful planning and preparation and superb cooking and delivery of meals. Enviroschools Te Tairāwhiti facilitators see this competition as an engaging mechanism to support purposeful gardening in schools. The competition encourages ākonga to think well ahead of the competition about what ingredients they have or will need and what planting and preparation needs to take place in advance of the cooking. It required planning and teamwork.

The seventh Tairawhiti Maara Kai Masterchef competition was hosted by Gisborne Intermediate in November. This saw finalist teams from schools all over Gisborne coming together at the Intermediate School for the day, starting with being greeted with a mihi whakatau and hairu/hongi.

The kaupapa was for students to prepare a meal using at least five ingredients from their school garden or that had been gathered locally. During the competition, the gardeners and chefs were separated so that the gardeners were able to share their stories of their schools’ maara kai, while the chefs prepared their equipment to plan their meals.

“We are using honey made from our beehives in our meal today.” – Wainui Beach School student gardener

This year was particularly impressive, with a huge variety of food and authentic cultural cuisine. The technical skills, such as making filo pastry, hand-made pasta, Vietnamese pancakes, custard squares (using milk from cows that were milked that morning) and vegan dishes, showed the students creativity and passion.

“I was really impressed with the technical skills this year, like making pasta, the apple and cinnamon scrolls and the fresh custard squares all made from scratch.” – Amy Spence, judge

A stunning meal takes shape.

Taste tests are important.










The day was well rounded with a judging panel from Black Fig, an organisation that make school lunches in the region, and a prizegiving run by Enviroschools facilitators.

The judges provided phenomenal feedback, saying they would pay money to eat the meals made by the students. In particular, the judges were impressed with how well the students worked together.

“This looks and tastes so good, I would buy it.” – judge

Loaded with tasty and nutritious kai.

Proud as punch.










“The Vietnamese pancake was presented well and tasted really nice.” – quote for people’s choice award

Perfectly balanced.

Seriously good kai.








These chefs have a bright future.

Recognition for the delightful dishes.