Meet the 'hangi master'

A man known as the 'hangi master' showed off his traditional techniques to the world's best chefs at last week's Taste of Auckland festival.

Cooking hangi has been a labour of love for Rewi Spraggon - a skill passed down through the generations.

"Anyone can cook, but when you cook with your grandfather's rocks that are 100 years old that have cooked for tens of thousands of people, that's a story."

Mr Spraggon says anything can be cooked in a hangi - and that it always tastes better.

"We can do anything, from cooking lasagne in a hangi to cooking octopus to cooking goat," he says.

"At the end of the day this is a conventional oven."

It might be a traditional method of cooking for Māori, but for people like Will Michel, chef at Sawmill Brewery, it's a first.

"Growing up in a big city in the UK, you don't often get a chance to dig holes in the middle of the city and bury meat," Mr Michel says.

"So it's beautiful to be able to use these kinds of traditional methods and put a spin on them."

Mr Spraggon's ambitions go far beyond the typical hangi fare of meat and vegetables. He's currently experimenting with ice cream.

"I'm doing stuff like smokey hokey pokey, which is fast, hot. Eventually I want to infuse it in ice cream," he says.

"It's better than salted caramel, you've got the smoke, you've got the earth flavour going through the hokey pokey which is a real Kiwi thing. But to actually put it in a hangi, it's crazy stuff."

He wants to pass his skills on to the masses, so that cooking hangi will remain a tradition to connect the generations.

"Every community had a hangi master, whether it's your brother, your uncle, your dad. Everyone had it. So the hangi master for me is acknowledging the skill set that our old people had, and keeping this part of our culture alive."

The Hui