Episode 5 - Samoan Wedding
This week Simon Gault faces his most challenging mission yet: to help cater a big Samoan wedding for 300 guests.
His journey starts at a West Auckland church, where he meets bride and groom-to-be, Emma Sione and Albert Omlang, with their wedding celebrant, Pastor Chris Sululoto.
Emma and Albert outline Simon's mission - to help cater their wedding reception, for a mere 300 guests. Not only that, Emma is expecting traditional Samoan food, which Simon knows very little about.
There's only one way to find out. Next stop, Samoa. Simon lands on the island of Upolu on a whistle-stop research trip. He visits the famous Apia market, where he samples the local produce, drinks kava and stumbles across a delicious Samoan dish, palusami, made from taro leaves and coconut cream.
Next, he boards one of Samoa's colourful buses and heads an hour out of Apia to Salelesi, the small village where Emma hails from. Here he meets Emma's relatives, who take him fishing and cook an umu (a traditional feast like a hangi, except it is cooked above ground) in his honour.
Returning to Auckland knowing a lot more about Samoan cuisine than he did a few days earlier, Simon travels to Otahuhu to meet the wedding's caterer, the redoubtable Lena Brunt of Continental Catering. Lena and her team are used to catering for large numbers out of their tiny kitchen, but used to a bit more space, Simon brings in his secret weapon - the Chef On A Mission truck, a mobile kitchen with everything he needs to prepare his dishes.
The plan is for Simon to add two gourmet dishes to the wedding feast Lena and her crew are preparing. A traditional umu isn't a practical option, so Simon chooses the next best thing - rotisseried lamb stuffed with taro, kumara and green bananas, and for his second dish, lamb shanks encased in the dish he enjoyed so much in Samoa, palusami. After sourcing banana leaves at a Mangere market garden, Simon gets under way with his prep.
Next day, everyone is up at the crack of dawn for the big
day: Simon, Lena and her crew, and the bride and
groom. While the bride is getting her make-up done and Lena's
team are cooking up a storm, Simon is struggling to get enough heat
for his rotisseries.
As the wedding gets under way, Simon is seriously worried. Can he cook his lambs in time? Lena and her crew arrive with their dishes, so the guests won't starve. But Simon's dishes are still a long way from ready, and he's praying for a miracle.
With the wedding over and the happy couple and guests on their way, can Simon produce a feast to remember? Or will it be a nightmare they never forget?
"This mission was like being caught up in a whirlwind," says
Simon. "One minute I'm meeting Emma and Albert at a church in
Henderson, the next I'm eating an umu dinner in a Samoan village,
the next I'm in Otahuhu with Lena and her amazing catering team,
then I'm cooking up a storm at a hall in Kelston. But the
best part was the people. Big smiles, big hearts, big
appetites, and a lovely young couple on their special day. I
just hope we gave them a feast to remember."