From the moment Mankind discovered fire – humans stood apart from all other species, and dominated the planet.
In the early stages, fire was used to fend off wild animals, provide warmth, transform basic elements into tools, to cook food and was worshipped. Since these primitive times; fire has been used to wage war, facilitated mankind’s transition from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age and then on through to the Technological and Space Ages; and is still valued, feared and revered.
In the Cook Islands – fire came to us through the demi-god Maui, who was a well-known adventurer and trickster.
His parents were Ru and Puataranga. Ru supported the Heavens, and his wife was the guardian of the path to the Underworld.
Before fire, Maui used to eat raw food – just like the rest of the other inhabitants of the earth, living on the Upperworld. However, when his mother sometimes visited him from the Underworld, she always brought with her – a basket filled with food for herself.
One day, Maui peeped into her basket when she was not looking, and noticed that the food inside was not raw, but cooked. The food smelt irresistible; and when Maui tasted it, he immediately fell in love with the succulent flavours – all made possible by the use of fire from the Underworld…. where it was closely guarded.
When Puataranga returned to the Underworld the next day, Maui secretly followed her; and when she cried out a magical incantation – the big black rock on Rarotonga opened, providing her entrance into the Underworld.
Previous to this, Maui had already asked the god Tane for a red pigeon, into which Maui’s spirit skillfully entered; and through this medium he was able to fly unnoticed into the Underworld behind his mother as she entered.
Maui silently flew behind her all the way to her house, and upon their arrival, he turned himself back into her beautiful son and explained to her why he had come to the Underworld.
With only love for her son in her heart, Pautaranga confided in him that the secret of fire was guarded by his grandfather, the god of Ma’uike; whom Maui immediately went to visit to ask for fire for himself. Ma’uike gladly gave him a sample of fire [three times], and each time Maui extinguished it; as what he really wanted – was to learn how to make fire…
Maui decided to try and force the secret of fire out of his grandfather, and this resulted in a fierce battle between them – with the much younger and stronger Maui defeating Ma’uike. Maui promised not to kill Ma’uike if he told him the secret of making fire; and being fearful of losing his life, Ma’uike reluctantly revealed these sacred secrets.
Upon learning these secrets, Maui ‘rewarded’ Ma’uike by burning his house, which created flames so tall that the fire spread through the rest of the Underworld, where it still burns to this day.
Maui took his secret back to the Upperworld, and since this time the inhabitants of the Cook Islands, as well as the rest of the World – have been able to make fire, as well as enjoy eating delicious flame-cooked fish, meat and poultry.
Today, the Chefs of the world celebrate the transition of fire into the verb Flambé; and in this format, fire continues to be nurtured in the world’s best kitchens.
Flambé is a culinary art form, and our menu has been designed to showcase some of the delicious improvements that fire has made to raw food.
In this kitchen, in this Restaurant – fire will continue to be worshipped and revered….