Lauraine Jacobs MNZM will be our guest speaker at a fundraising event in September for Sweet Louise, the only charity in New Zealand that solely focuses on improving the quality of life for hundreds of women and men living with incurable breast cancer. Lauraine is one of New Zealand’s most respected food writers and the author of several cookbooks, including her most recent work “Always Delicious” published last year. She shares with us some insights into current dining trends, New Zealand’s reputation in international foodie circles, and food travel tips.

Choosing what to eat in restaurants these days often results in a negotiation with your dining companions to select the “shared plates” from which everyone will serve themselves a tasty morsel.

It’s unusual now to find a quality restaurant that serves a fully plated meal of meat and three vegetables, says Lauraine.

“One of the biggest food trends today is that people are serving smaller portions – in restaurants and at home. This change is not necessarily being driven by advice from nutritionists. It’s probably more reflective of diners’ experiences when they eat out.”

Despite the quality of our food and wine, as well as the achievements of our top chefs, New Zealand continues to fly below the radar internationally. During her recent travels in the Northern Hemisphere, Lauraine was again reminded that quality Kiwi cuisine is poorly recognised.

“New Zealand is not really promoted as a food destination, which is a shame when you consider how good our food tastes, how accessible it is, and that people could come here and have an amazing experience – although it is expensive.

“Our wine industry has done a good job of telling the story about the quality of New Zealand wine, but our volumes are small and we are competing with very big producers who have large international marketing budgets.”

A few chefs like Peter Gordon have achieved international recognition and done a lot to raise awareness of New Zealand food ingredients and wine. Others are achieving excellence in world-famous restaurants, but too often are not given widespread recognition in their homeland. Lauraine says Chef Monique Fiso is a welcome exception.

“She is a rising star. Since launching her Wellington restaurant Hiakai (Māori for ‘hungry’) she has established herself as a leading innovator in the New Zealand food scene. Her menus challenge assumptions about Māori food in New Zealand.

“Her appearance on Netflix cooking competition Final Table alongside a Michelin cast of celebrity chefs, premiered in November last year, the same day that Hiakai opened. Her 30-seat restaurant is now booked weeks ahead.”

For those intending to head overseas and visit a top international restaurant, Lauraine offers some useful advice.

“I regularly return to the British Isles and Ireland – there is a lot of bad food there, but the good restaurants are extraordinary.

“It is absolutely essential to do your research and book the restaurants you want to get into at the same time you book your flights and accommodation. The really good places are booked out months ahead and leaving it to chance probably means you will miss out.”