Top chef revives call for ancestral diet

The people of Samoa and the Pacific need to revert to their ancestral diets in order to live a healthy life.

So says one of Fiji’s Executive Chefs, Lance Seeto, who was man behind the mouthwatering variety of dishes at the Light the World event held at Ululoloa on Tuesday night. 

“We have the opportunity to go back to that old diet because a lot of that produce is still here. So it’s just matter of education, changing the mindset to turn to a more healthy diet,” he said to the Samoa Observer. 

“It’s probably a lot harder here in Samoa because there’s a lot of influence of processed foods here, and I understand that processed foods are a lot cheaper, but we have to at least acknowledge and understand what’s causing the sickness, and from there, it’s a matter of making those changes.”

Having spent a few years working around the Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea and making Fiji his home, Lance said, this helped him learn the traditional foods of the indigenous Pacific Islands people. 

 “South Pacific people were not sick a few generations ago now they are very sick, so to understand why and how, that’s given me that knowledge now, so all the food I produce now in the resort or at these kinds of special functions, are inspired by those old days and those old way of cooking,” he said. 

“The change in diet throughout the South Pacific and recognising that a lot of the health issues we have throughout the South Pacific relates to food, and the biggest cause is the change in the diet."

“For the locals, we were talking earlier about ancestral diets, we were talking about what did the ancestors used to eat. It was about fresh produce, it was about sea food, it’s about white meats. I asked the crowd what do you eat now and they all acknowledged that they don’t eat much of that anymore.”

His 30 years in the tourism industry has given his vast knowledge in the importance of providing a nutritious meal. 

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“The Fiji Government understood this a few years back, the change in diet and lifestyle is one biggest cause of diabetes and heart disease now,” Lance said. 

“A number of nutritional chefs and I have been saying that these processed foods, the additional chemical additives, artificial things in our bodies are the cause of diseases that we face in the Pacific Islands."   

“A lot of the everyday foods here are really fatty, lamb flaps and the turkey tail. These are the extra salty fatty that we should be eating less off.”

The solution lies in educating children at a young age and raising awareness, he said 

“It’s about learning how to cook food with less salt. In Fiji, we were quite fortunate because the Indian influence in Fiji helped to introduce spices, and so Fijians are learning to eat their fresh foods with more spices,” Lance said.

“Here in Samoa it’s going to be an education programme, it’s going to take just the Government acknowledging what’s going wrong and addressing the issue through education, that’s the only way to tackle it."  

“And education is from a young age, the oldies it’s hard to change their minds about habits, but if we can teach the young children what our ancestors used to eat and then adopt that at a very early stage." 

“Do not give them sodas, do not introduce sodas or processed food. Because as a young child, they can at least grow up knowing that they drink water, coconut water, eat fruits and vegetables.”

Over the years, Chef Lance Seeto has trained hundreds of chefs who have gone on to become executive chefs in five-start resorts, and there are talks to do just that in Samoa. 

“This is my first time here for the Light the World event, but it’s my second time here in Samoa and that was four years ago, we were doing training for some young chefs here, so I’m glad to be back and this is pretty much an awesome event too,” he said.  

“In Fiji we have an advantage because tourism is our stronger industry, so tourism pushes us to be better in Fiji, in Samoa it’ll be different, I think it’s going to take more input from outside, for people just to acknowledge that we’re not eating healthy, how do we eat healthy, and that’s a learning process.”

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