Garry Somerville of Kaitaia Fire shares his experience at Food Connection 2018 in at the New Zealand High Commission in Tokyo, where a touch of Kiwi ingenuity and a startling dessert stole the show.

We’d been asked about our requirements for sampling, and had chosen beef to go with Kaitaia Fire’s Waha Wera Kiwifruit and Habanero Pepper sauce as a good safe option. But a late-night brainstorming saké session had thrown up a weird option, and after a couple of trials we also requested vanilla ice cream. Why not? I’d enjoyed ‘hot’ desserts during a stay in New Mexico, and we were never a company to take the safe route, so there they were. Little punnets of vanilla ice cream, tastefully decorated with a dollop of our hottest, sweetest sauce.

Everyone was a little suspicious at first, but after some cajoling by our translator, the bravest (or craziest) in our audience stepped forward. After about ten minutes there was a tangible shift in the vibe in the room. People were abandoning the apples, moving on from the mussels, leaving the wine stands, and queuing in front of us, for a taste of ice cream infused with our sauce of kiwifruit, manuka honey and one of the world’s hottest peppers. Embassy staff had to form a bucket brigade passing trays of ice cream down the line, to keep up with demand.

When word got out that the ice cream stock was getting low, we had a rush from the embassy staff desperate to see what the fuss was about and get their own taste. We sent out for another load of ice cream, and still the buyers waited three deep at our table. It had seemed like a neat, albeit slightly wacky idea to begin with, to offer the sauce in a strange way to a very different people in an unfamiliar culture, but we had not expected this!

Two days later it was back to reality. A cold and wet Auckland, made more tolerable by the knowledge that for the next couple of months we would be flat-out filling bottles and packing pallets to ship up to our new friends and fans in the Land of the Rising Sun!