Vanuatu’s chefs and growers in the spotlight as borders reopen


Chef Leonid Vusilai at work.
Chef Leonid Vusilai at work.
Ni-Vanuatu chef Leonid Vusilai is leading the charge to promote his country’s unique food culture and local cuisine through the agritourism movement.

When you think of Vanuatu, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the crystal clear waters full of colourful marine life, or maybe the friendly locals, famous for their warm hospitality.

Now that Vanuatu has reopened its borders, a new ‘agritourism’ movement is putting the nation’s chefs and growers in the spotlight, making it an exciting destination for food-curious travellers. 

Leonid Vusilai is a young Ni-Vanuatu chef who is playing a key role in Vanuatu’s agritourism movement. Vusilai hails from Ambae, a stunning island famous for its volcanic terrain, rock climbing, fishing, and more recently, its slow food movement. In 2019, Vusilai and his team mate Knox Taleo representing Vanuatu were the winners in the inaugural Pacific Island Food Revolution competition. Vusilai is particularly passionate about fresh, local and organic ingredients and has been instrumental in bringing this produce into the menus of Vanuatu’s restaurants. By developing menus around the local food, they’ve been able to financially support local farmers, while also championing Vanuatu’s unique cuisine. 

“My entire focus has always been to bring back respect and pride to our local foods,” says the chef, who works as a technical advisor for the local cuisine revival initiative under the agritourism programme and runs workshops with other Ni-Vanuatu chefs. “Its main focus is on promoting our local cuisine and introducing this into our restaurants. [My aspiration] is to empower Vanuatu chefs to value and take ownership and pride in local foods so Vanuatu can be known as a destination with a unique food culture.” 

Vusilai is passionate about using fresh, local ingredients.

While the borders have been shut, a lot of work has gone into growing the agritourism industry, and with the country set to open up again on 1 July, visitors will have a host of exciting new food experiences to discover in Vanuatu. 

One of the best ways to discover the diverse produce and support local farmers is by wandering through a local market. Full of vibrant colours and tantalising scents, the Port Vila Market House located in Vanuatu’s capital is a fresh produce bazaar like no other. Stroll through the stalls and sample fresh coconuts, tapioca, pineapples, taro, raspberries and crimson ginger flowers, all grown locally in the rich volcanic soils of Vanuatu.

Port Vila’s colourful Market House.

The smell of freshly grilled kaikai (island food) entices both locals and tourists at this lively market – and don’t forget to try the famous laplap, Vanuatu’s national dish made from yam paste, spinach and grated coconut. 

Vanuatu has officially reopened its borders. To plan your holiday, visit 

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