Ronna: How long have you been doing this in the Pacific?
Colin: Actually I've been doing this for a long time, over 40 years. Originally I came down to other Pacific islands to basically help hotels and resorts. Get them together, service-wise or efficient cooking and all that. I saw a real gap; we were not using local products. When I first started coming around here [Samoa] in the mid 70s, I saw that most hotels were using mainly imported food. Even the lettuces were being brought in, almost dead from New Zealand and Australia. Over the years, I've seen more use of local produce; of course we don't have a huge variety. So the challenge is to be able to use local produce in the best way possible. To make it attractive and tasty for the tourist palate. And most of our chefs still do not know how to cook it and prepare it in a way that is attractive and tasty in a contemporary way.
So that's what I have been doing. Either running classes or helping hotels start their restaurants. About 7 years ago I started coming here to [the] Sinalei [Resort] and we made a commitment for them to source all their produce and ingredients locally, first from their own employees, who have their own backyard gardens, then from the roadside sellers and then from the big markets in Apia. It has been working for Sinalei and it can work for others. So far they've been doing a good job.
Ronna: From your perspective, how can the tourism industry be supported to promote local cuisine?
Colin: I think the support has to come mainly from the government. The Tourism Department, they need to market this better. They really have to say that food tourism is the way to go, that the islands that we live in here are a great source of healthy, local produce. First of all, we need to market ourselves better. Secondly, we need to support the farmers. This is where the Department of Agriculture can come in. Besides that, it's about technique, how to grow, what to plant and how to plant it so we have a consistent, quality supply. We need to do a better job growing. We need to educate our farmers. Last key aspect is the consumption of our products. Chefs need to do this. We need to teach chefs how to prepare contemporary island cuisine.
Ronna: Any other comments?
Colin: We need to understand that we can't grow our economies by buying food somewhere else. You've got to buy what you produce. The future for our islands is to actually have an industry that is sustainable and natural.
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