by Sofia Archer, The Guardian Newspaper, Wednesday 23 November 2016
Infectious laughter bubbles through Te Awhina's kitchen last Thursday as excited young mums took part in the Marae Kitchen Rules cook-off.
The Te Piki Oranga mothers were feeling the heat after cooking all morning, in teams Kotare and Korimako, to present their set menu to the four-person judging panel.
Tamariki Ora/Pūkenga Atawhai Natasha Cunningham asked the judges to consider taste, presentation, team work, budget and whether the food was "whanau friendly' when sampling the kai.
The cook-off was part of a wider initiative by TPO's Mama Ora support group for mums and their wee ones.
Mum of two Melissa Yukich said she loved it: "We get to cook and we get to eat! We have a lot of activities. It's all about the kids, but there's always something for us too."
Pukenga Manaaki Jocie Weka, who does a lot of behind the scenes work for the support group, said the women have been consistent in coming over the 10 weekly group sessions: "It's shown there's been a need for something like this for our Maori mums ... It's a place for them to meet and be together."
After a four week pilot programme, they're nearly at the end of the initiative Jocie said.
Danielle Sakaio, mum of four, may have been there for the first time but was enjoying it she said. "Everybody gets on and people's personalities are really funny."
Mum of three Miriana Mikaere, who was at the cook-off with six and half month old Gia Maria said she would highly recommend it to any other mums.
Team Kotare's dessert dish was the ultimate winner of Marae Kitchen Rules, with prizes and food sponsored by Bay Pharmacy and ASB Aquatic.
Next up Mama Ora is making a splash with waka ama, teaching their yoursters about water safety.