Meet the Tongan chef making waves in the Auckland dining scene

Head chef Touvai 'Tee' Poloniati is a master in his two kitchens, and is wanting to help other Pacific chefs thrive.

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Touvai ‘Tee’ Poloniati is head chef at Miss Moonshine’s and Gypsy Caravan. Source: Tagata Pasifika

Of Tongan heritage, Tee is head chef at Ponsonby’s Miss Moonshine’s and Gypsy Caravan, having learnt to cook from his parents.

"My mum wasn’t the best cook but my dad actually taught me most of the Tongan traditional foods like turning the pouaka umu every Sunday," he told Tagata Pasifika.

A teacher at Southern Cross College further instilled a passion in him at 15, helping him and friends of Pacific heritage develop their skills.

"Katherine Wong, she just drove us," Tee said.

"She still supports us now, she messages us every now and then, asking what we are doing."

Tee’s parents are from Fasi and Fu’amotu, and being a proud Tongan, he wants to give back to his homeland.

"Really proud, I wish I could go back to Tonga and do something there and contribute to the hospitality industry, which is not really booming yet compared to Fiji and Samoa and Rarotonga.

"It’s definitely on the list of something I want to do in the future."