Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Māori and Samoan descent. Chef Monique Fiso made a name for herself in New York, working in prestigious restaurants. With her trademark determination, she decided to make a shift and came home to discover a new style of cooking, and a new side to herself.
Today Monique Fiso is a rewarded chef and writer, whose restaurant has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its innovative and groundbreaking use of indigenous ingredients and the revitalization of Kai Māori.
Devotion to exploration and development of Māori cooking techniques and ingredients
Hiakai began in 2016 by Chef Monique Fiso as a pop-up series devoted to the exploration and development of Māori cooking techniques and ingredients. Māori were great innovators of kai (food) and whenua (land). Developing their own style of earth cookery (hāngi) and successfully cultivating plants and vegetables brought with them from Hawaiki (ancient homeland) to the much colder environment of Aotearoa. Over several centuries, these methods have been passed down, refined and still feed the tāngata (people) of Aotearoa today. Since its launch, Hiakai has established itself as a leading innovator in the New Zealand food scene.
The sophisticated boundary-pushing menus created by the Hiakai team are challenging the status quo of Māori food in New Zealand while playing a leading role in keeping Kai Māori and Polynesian food culture alive.
Monique Fiso’s book, “HIAKAI” is considered the most important cookbooks in Aotearoa.
“We love Aotearoa, it’s the place we call home and we want to share all the flavours we love about our home with our guests. Our menus are inspired by the whenua (land), moana (sea), and tāngata (people) of Aotearoa. Tītī (muttonbird), red matipo, mamaku – ingredients rarely seen on a restaurant menu regularly feature on ours. We place a special focus on researching and showcasing Māori and Pasifika ingredients in modern and innovative ways. This unique style has earned us an accolade or two which is nice, but to us, our guests and their dining experience is what matters the most and not the awards we may gather along the way.”