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The Panel

Connie Clarkson

Singapore-born and Auckland-based Connie Clarkson has been cooking and writing all her life. Author of Asian Flavours, Connie has an intricate knowledge of Asian cuisine, including where to find the best foodie haunts in Auckland. Highly respected in hospitality circles, Connie owned and operated Auckland’s The French Café during the mid-1990s, and from 2002-12 she chaired The Lewisham Awards. A regular contributor and food judge for Metro magazine, she is currently Manager of Commercial Place Operations at Auckland Council’s Pānuku Development Auckland.


Te Kohe Tuhaka

Te Kohe Tuhaka is one of New Zealand's leading Māori actors. His fluency in te reo and firm grasp of his cultural roots has seen him star in the te reo epic The Deadlands and much-loved Māori TV series Find Me a Māori Bride. For the past two seasons, Te Kohe has also presented Māori Television's Marae Kai Masters


Benjamin Bayly

Born and raised on a dairy farm in Waikato, Ben is currently executive chef at the awarding-winning Baduzzi and The Grove restaurants. He previously held senior chef roles at Michelin-starred restaurants in London and France.  For two years running, Ben has been named Chef of the Year at the Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards in 2014 and 2015.  Ben is currently filming season two of the popular television show My Kitchen Rules.


Paul Spoonley

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University, and the author or editor of 27 books. He is a Principal Investigator on a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded project which looks at the impacts of super-diversity on Auckland as a gateway city.  Paul is also passionate about the social, and sociological, aspects of food in intercultural sites of engagement. 

Noelle McCarthy - Moderator

Noelle McCarthy is a writer and broadcaster based in Auckland. She's a well-known voice on Radio New Zealand National, as the host of 'Summer Noelle' in the holidays, and a regular fill-in on various shows. She's written for a variety of publications in New Zealand and Ireland, including a regular books column for Metro magazine.

Food Demonstration

Coco's Cantina

K\u0027 Road\u0027s Coco\u0027s Cantina is a family-run business.

K' Road's Coco's Cantina is a family-run business.

Coco's Cantina is a family-run restaurant in K' Road, specialising in rustic Italian with influences from across the Mediterranean. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with the red-lipstick-wearing waitresses adding a dash of panache. Sisters Renee and Damaris Coulter launched the business six years ago, inspired by their nana and a commitment to providing the community with a fun, quality dining experience. They attribute the restaurant's popularity to their "uncompromising philosophy" and an amazing team, which includes chef Guiherme 'Will' Bezerra and bar manager Petaia Unoi.