Five Minutes with Visa Wellington On a Plate director Sarah Meikle.

By Carolyn Enting

Five Minutes with Visa Wellington On a Plate director Sarah Meikle.
We spend five minutes with Visa Wellington On a Plate director Sarah Meikle.

What is the best thing about being director of Visa Wellington On a Plate?
Gosh, the best thing? There are so many fantastic things about being the director of New Zealand’s largest culinary festival, but I think one of the best things is being the person who leads the vision of the festival – Visa Wellington On a Plate is set on a path to be a significant international event for Wellington and New Zealand and it’s exciting to be leading that vision.

What is your favourite way to dine and why?
I have to say I love the trend of sharing plates…it means you get to try everything on the menu.

What do you cook when you’re at home?
I often entertain at home and love enjoying a meal with friends. I definitely cook to the season. This weekend it’s retro, so a hearty beef stroganoff is on the menu.

What is your guilty food pleasure?
Salted caramel ice cream. One word: yum!

What’s exciting you about what is happening in the food industry currently?
In Wellington we’re seeing producers and restaurants working more and more collaboratively. It’s something really special about Wellington that we see the hospitality supporting the boutique craft producers. And, with consumers increasingly focused on where there food comes from, it’s perfect timing for this kind of collaboration to happen and for consumers to see locally produced products on restaurant and café menus.

You travel a lot as well as being director of a food festival. Are there any trends you predict or have seen?
Definitely a surge in the demand for Korean food, particularly ‘Korean street food’ – if you head to Los Angeles and San Francisco you’ll see more Korean food offerings popping up as health conscious eaters become more aware of the benefits of slow and fermented food. Eating local will continue to gain momentum – and we are already seeing a surge in interest in ancient grains…there are just more and more appearing on the menu.

Do you have a personal favourite aspect of VWOAP?
That’s a hard one…it’s like picking your favourite child. There’s no question that I love the creativity of the festival events programme. But, when flicking through the DINE Wellington and Garage Project presents Burger Wellington menus, it simply stuns me at the superb dining on offers. Some menus are entirely foraged, whilst others present vegetarian dining in a really, really interesting way. There’s just too many to pick one favourite.

What is VWOAP’s point of difference?
Being the largest food festival in New Zealand, we truly have something for everyone. And, with Wellington having such a forward-thinking and creative food scene all year round, we’ve got the perfect culinary talent to come up with top quality and truly original offerings for the festival. The festival has been created as a destination – it’s the perfect reason to come to Wellington in august.

Why do you think VWOAP has grown into such a successful festival?
People love the chance to try something new and they use the festival as an opportunity to indulge. We’ll see people who don’t usually eat out a lot booking in multiple nights out. We also see visitors from out-of-town use this as a great reason to visit Wellington for the perfect mid-winter ‘warm-the-soul event’. We know that we have some visitors, for example, who come to Wellington every year from Australia as they are real foodies and this is the time to celebrate Wellington’s culinary scene at it’s best.

What is new to this year’s festival that personally excites you?
I can’t wait to get back to Il Casino, so many happy memories for many people and I’m sure that there are lots of New Zealander’s will agree it will be a fabulous piece of nostalgia. I also can’t wait for some of the pop-ups, and there are some wonderful events in the Wairarapa … dinner with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Symphonic Feasts? Boom! There are also some fantastic menus this year and I already have my eye on three burgers … how will I fit it all in 17 days?

What is your latest food discovery?
I have to say, the char-grilled cauliflower at Charley Noble is incredible. Who would have thought such a humble vegetable could be turned into something so delicious.


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