A New Zealand-based Tongan chef says people from the Pacific should not feel that their food is not good enough for five-star dining.

Alex Kaihea recently appeared on the TV show Real Pasifik, alongside celebrity chef Robert Oliver, as part of efforts to develop awareness about the region's food.

He's told the islands have excellent fresh ingredients and a long food tradition, but the big hotels and resorts have yet to catch on.

"All the head chefs are from Europe and when they come to New Zealand or Australia or even the Pacific, they tend to bring in their food and style," he said.

"The junior chefs, the young islanders, they are still training and they undervalue their food or they don't know any other way of using traditional food to make it look professional."

Robert Oliver says the show has been an opportunity to showcase the diversity of Pacific cooking.

"For so long the Pacific had been tourism branded and there was a lack of differentiation between the islands and the cuisine story there, so it was all this kind of Pacific food blob," he said.

"If you go from the Melanesian Islands all the way through the Polynesian, every single island has a distinct heritage and a distinct cuisine."

He says says one of the benefits of traditional Pacific food is its healthiness.

"The original Pacific diet was so robust and full of known health properties and a lot of those values were pushed aside when the region was colonised," he said.

"So it's about revisiting those food stories and bringing them back to the plate."

Mr Kaihea says shows like Real Pasifik have been an avenue to showcase how to make Pacific cuisine presentable.

"Every island, we do the raw fish [and] fresh vegetables and we make the coconut cream from scratch because it's much healthier that way," he said.

"It's a really, really good example of a Pacific Island dish - pretty much from Samoa, Rarotonga to Fiji [to] Tonga - but mainly what we do is we put it in a big bowl and it's unattractive to people.

"But when we put it in a coconut shell, make it even and include cherry tomatoes...and make it presentable - that's one of the dishes that represents Pacific Islanders."

Mr Kaihea says some of the Pacific recipes can involve almost a whole day of cooking, but local chefs are learning new techniques for speeding that up.

"We're still bringing in some of the techniques from what we know as a professional kitchen and try to make the island food presentable and the techniques for production," he said.

"It's finding international techniques for cooking, but you're not getting away from the ingredients of the Pacific cuisine."

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