Introducing Our AMAZING New Vegetarian Chef, Toni!

Kia Ora, my name is Toni

I am very blessed to be a part of the Mana Kitchen team and I would love to share a little about myself with you…. 

This little story will give you an insight into how they came to be.  So here we go, I’ll start with the practical stuff.

I am a qualified chef. I completed my first level National Certificate of Cookery at Highschool when I was 16 and loved it. I aced it! My teacher saw my talents and encouraged me into a career in cooking. So, I left school to continue my training in the big smoke of Invercargill, at SIT  Polytech.

I was fortunate enough to land some really good jobs with wonderful chefs over the next few years, mostly in fine dining restaurants. I worked my way up the ranks gaining experience and developing my natural leadership skills as I progressed into Head Chef positions.

I really enjoyed my  management positions, I love to work with people in problem solving and co-creating delicious soul nourishing food. I knew I loved to cook and share my heart with others. Although it took me a while to figure this out and I often at times felt disheartened by the  pressure and stressful conditions of working in traditional hospitality environments. I also felt a bit inauthentic with the food I was producing, as it wasn’t always food I myself would want to eat, or would feel happy to give to my loved ones.

Having always had a health-conscious mind, I knew the dairy, sugar and gluten  laden menus someone else had created, wasn’t the soul nourishing food I longed to create. I wanted to feel proud of the food I was cooking and also excited and happy in knowing it would nourish people’s bodies, mind and soul.

This led me to seek out a new experience. So, I asked the universe for some help and guidance, and it wasn’t long before it came to my rescue!

It took me to Aro-ha Wellness Centre in Glenorchy…. talk about a game changer!

Here I had all my prayers answered. I was introduced and immersed in a centre and team that showed me a new way of being, one that’s foundation was built on love, unity, co-creation and

nourishment of the body mind and soul. I was at the birthing of Aro-ha, cooking together with another wonderful chef, who also was not too familiar with this style of cooking.

Boy, did we have some fun, and some challenges, we had it all!

The food was gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar free, nutrient dense, and mostly raw…WOW!
Sprouting, fermenting, activating…. extremely different to before.

Here I was really able to play, and start to explore creating my own recipes, finding my edge. This experience helped me to grow my fire and passion in many unexpected ways, some of which I cherish are, adaptability, flexibility, sustainability, conscious living.

For the first time I was really able to feel the difference between what makes a meal good or exceptional. Of course, it was the Love.

And as much as I was putting in, it was coming right back to me. Feeling very open hearted and safe in this loving supportive environment I was able to give and receive in beautiful harmony.

For me now, to work in a retreat environment, feels like the perfect way in which to share my gift. Through the food my hope is that this love radiates and permeates each soul and provides the nourishment they need to stay open hearted and resilient in our ever-changing world.

Since this experience I continue to expand and explore ways in which I can offer more love and harmony into my food and into the space in which it is created.

This past year, I have really felt a strong calling to up my game, in terms of  sustainability and want to get more creative by predominantly using New Zealand grown produce. This is something I have been sitting with for a while, as it has big implications to my cooking style as it stands. But I feel now, more than ever, we must get our priorities in order and make the compromises needed in order to support each other and mother earth as we move forward in a new way of being.

I am really excited to now be focusing on getting back to basics, creating new menus, recipes and reaching out to New Zealand to find where it is that I can source this  beautiful home-grown food.

I hope to be able to tantalise your taste buds with these creations sometime in the near future. 


Thankyou for sharing this time with me.

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