Wellington Culinary Events Trust

The Wellington region, encapsulating the districts of Wellington city, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua, Kapiti and the Wairarapa, has a wealth of enthusiastic and passionate food and beverage producers, suppliers, manufacturers, educators and committed consumers.

This supports Wellington’s position as the Culinary Capital of New Zealand. Home to more than 400 restaurants, bars and cafes, Wellington rivals New York for choice – and the rest of the world’s foodie destinations for quality.

Background

The Wellington Culinary Events Trust (WCET), a not-for-profit charitable trust, was established in February 2014, to promote Wellington (city and region) as the premium New Zealand destination for hospitality experiences, thereby adding value to the Wellington region for the benefit of the public of Wellington region.

The culinary and hospitality community provide a critical component of Wellington’s cultural offering. WCET’s role is to champion this by providing experiences throughout the year, working with a wide range of partners, from community events through to festivals such as Visa Wellington On a Plate (Visa WOAP).

The ultimate goal of the WCET is for the Wellington region to be recognised as the Culinary Capital of New Zealand - raising awareness and growing confidence in the wider Wellington region’s food community, and to act as a platform for a delicious and diverse range of events, programmes and competitions, accessible to all levels of the community.

One of the key ways that WCET is endeavouring to work with the community is through collaborations with other key iconic Wellington events and festivals (i.e. International Arts Festival, CubaDupa etc), as well as being a key communication channel (via digital, social media, eNewsletter databases and other channels) for existing culinary events and experiences (i.e. Toast Martinborough, Harvest Festival etc).

Our vision

Feeding people’s appetite for life by bringing them together to share different, inspiring and provocative culinary experiences.

Our objectives

  1. To support Wellington’s hospitality and culinary sector to thrive
  2. To support Wellington to become one of the world’s great food cities
  3. To tell the Wellington Food Story via different, inspiring and provocative culinary experiences
  4. To drive economic growth for the Wellington region through visitation and export growth

The Trust’s activity culminates with Highball in May and Visa WOAP and Beervana both held annually in August.

Visa Wellington On a Plate

Positively Wellington Tourism and Grow Wellington (both now part of WREDA) established Visa WOAP in 2009 to showcase the region’s food and beverage sector, and to develop culinary tourism in the region.

The festival was also developed as a vehicle to showcase Wellington’s regional identity and to provide a platform for the culinary community, from across the wider region, to work together to deliver a unified outcome celebrating the whole region.

With a goal to support Wellington’s hospitality and culinary sector to thrive, the festival is the cornerstone in supporting Wellington’s position as the Culinary Capital of New Zealand, the festival acts as a platform for a delicious and diverse range of events, programmes and competitions. Wellington's restaurant community shine through Dine Wellington – where approximately 100 eateries throughout the region offer locally focused set menus, Beervana leads the Festival Events programme, Cocktail Wellington puts the spotlight on our talented bartenders and the annual battle of the buns, Garage Project presents Burger Wellington, is a favourite of the Festival.

The festival has continued to grow both in size and success. Since 2009, Dine Wellington participation has increased over 150% (from 42 to over 100 restaurants) and the Festival Events programme has surged ten-fold (from 12 event to 125) – food for thought!

Visa WOAP has significant support from the Wellington food and beverage industry, producers and suppliers. The festival is a key platform for the marketing of the Wellington hospitality industry throughout the Wellington region, New Zealand and Australia. And since its humble-pie beginnings, the annual festival has worked hard to establish a reputation as one of New Zealand’s premier culinary events. It has been suggested that the festival has the potential to be as valuable and strategically important to Wellington as established events such as the NZ Festival or World of WearableArt™ Awards Show.

Partner with us

Visa WOAP stands for collaboration and partnership. By developing a relationship with Visa WOAP through both industry and consumer – you align your organisation in helping to tell an integral part of Wellington’s story represented by our key brand values and messages: 

  • Innovative: Seeking our new culinary adventures
  • Real: Authentic experiences
  • Community: Food is best shared
  • Quality: A restless pursuit of excellence
  • Collaborative: A city and region working together to serve up more

Cheers for your support!

Visa WOAP would not exist if not for our generous sponsors and partners. As far as we’re concerned, having too many cooks in the kitchen is definitely a good thing!

Beervana

The WCET acquired Beervana in May 2015. Beervana is New Zealand's premier craft beer celebration offering attendees the opportunity to sample the latest offerings from breweries here in New Zealand, Australia and a few handpicked from around the world. Enthusiasts are enlightened with informative seminars on how to appreciate craft beer even more than you already do. For keen home-brewers there are masterclasses, equipment and friendly advice.

Highball

Highball is New Zealand’s most exciting annual cocktail and spirits celebration. The finest of New Zealand craft spirits and cocktails are mixed with education and imbibing. Hosted at the iconic Wellington Dominion Museum, Highball is an immersive two day celebration showcasing some of the best purveyors of cocktails and spirits New Zealand and the world has to offer! Highball and Wellington Cocktail Week takes place every May.

Governance

The Wellington Culinary Events Trust Board is governed by an inspiring group of leaders in their field:

Grant Maxwell - Chair

Grant has spent his career working in marketing and communications, across numerous roles.  After two decades in advertising he has spent the last four years in the digital communications field, specifically around optimisation and performance marketing.

Grant has served on the WCET board since 2015 and chairing the Audit and Risk committee before taking over the role of Trust Chair from October 2017.

Grant also sits as an industry member on the Advertising Standards Complaints Board and spent 8 years on the Media Committee of the Commercial Communications Council.

Grant lives in Wellington, is married with two teenagers and spends any spare time nurturing a crazy compulsion to restore classic Italian cars.

James Bennie

James Bennie is a Business Growth Manager at WellingtonNZ, helping small to medium Wellington businesses grow to the next level. Previous to this role, James was the Training and Developing Officer at WellingtonNZ.

James has a background in business and hospitality, recently exiting from HospoTrain, a training and consultancy company for hospitality, after 10 years as director.

James continues to own Raw Hospitality which assesses hospitality experiences undercover, and also co-owns the coastal lifestyle clothing brand SlackTide. 

He is a judge for the HospitalityNZ Awards of Excellence, Advisory Board Member at the Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand and Vice President of the Wellington Surfcasting and Angling Club.

In James’s spare time you will find him over in the Wairarapa, fishing from the beach with his three sons and relaxing at their bach. 

Mike Egan

Mike has been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years. Co-owning his first restaurant, Van Gogh’s in Eastbourne in 1983, he spent his early career managing a stockbrokers’ private members club in London.  Since 1991 he has co-owned many establishments such as Dockside Restaurant, One Red Dog, The Arbitrageur Wine Room, and Osteria del Toro along with running the food service outlets at Te Papa from it’s opening in 1998 until 2003. Mike also refurbished and operated The Martinborough Hotel from 1997-2002 for an overseas based owner.

Mike currently co-owns Boulcott St Bistro, Burger Liquor, Monsoon Poon Wellington, Monsoon Poon Auckland as well as Terrace Villa’s Serviced Apartments.

Since 2007 he has been the National President Restaurant Association of New Zealand.  And since 2009 he has been a Trustee of Wellington Culinary Events Trust.

Mike annually attends international industry events, including; The NRA Hotel and Restaurant Show Chicago and The European Foodservice Summit Zurich - This summit is attended by 250 European food service operators and is a future think tank and congress for the restaurant industry. 

Sarah Meikle

Sarah is the CEO of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust and Festival Director of New Zealand's largest and tastiest culinary festival, Visa Wellington On a Plate (Visa WOAP). In this capacity she is also Event Director of Beervana, the Road to Beervana and Highball.

The WCET was formed in February 2014 with the principle objective "to promote Wellington city and region as the premium New Zealand food and beverage destination". This ensures that the trust’s focus is on a year-round proposition – building the Visa WOAP festival offering, attracting more out-of-town visitors to this now month-long event, and developing further opportunities to support Wellington’s culinary offer 365 days per year.

Helping "tell NZ’s food story" is hugely important to Sarah and she has been fortunate enough to have been invited to speak to a number of conferences around the world sharing her thoughts and experiences on the role that food tourism plays in a country's branding and positioning. In this capacity, she is an Executive Member of Eat New Zealand, a collective of New Zealand's chefs, producers, media, tourism and event operators, who have all been inspired to create a national platform to promote and champion our best food, drink, and culinary tourism opportunities.

Prior to this Sarah spent 6 1/2 years as General Manager, Marketing at Positively Wellington Tourism (now WellingtonNZ), one of the largest regional tourism organizations in New Zealand.

Before working with PWT, Sarah spent just under 10 years with Tourism New Zealand in operations and marketing roles in London and Wellington, as well as establishing their marketing offices in Mumbai and Dubai and undertaking market foundation work in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) and South Africa.

Sarah is also the Deputy Chairperson of Yachting New Zealand and a Director of Palliser Estate Wines of Martinborough.

Terry Shubkin

Terry is the resident Chief Excitement Officer at Young Enterprise and she maintains that it is the best job in the world. During her 18 years in the IT industry, Terry had a passion for helping young people – from mentoring, to her active involvement in Women in Technology, to chairing the Unisys Kidz Connect Grant programme. Since 2010, Terry has been following that passion full time at the helm of Young Enterprise.

Her belief in the power of young people also serves her well as a Board member for the Ministry of Youth Development’s Partnership Fund Board and the Manurewa High School Business Academy. When she’s not busy being inspired by students Terry can be found travelling, at her bach beating fresh pāua with a 2 x 4 (apparently it’s the only way to make it tender), or training for her next half marathon. She only torments herself with these races because of her enduring love of food and wine – which serves her well as a Trustee of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust.

Paul Sinclair

Paul Sinclair is a co-owner and manager of strategy and operations consultancy Maven International Ltd and commercialisation and export enterprise, OnlyFromNZ Ltd. He has spent much of the past ten years focusing on Maven’s professional services export growth in the Middle East where the company has delivered projects ranging from marine and ground water management to eco-tourism, education and forensics. Paul and his business partner export premium foodstuffs under the OnlyFromNZ banner to the United Arab Emirates.

As a former Gulf of Carpentaria-based prawn fisherman, Parliamentary administrator, freelance writer, public relations consultant (New Zealand and Hong Kong), senior ad executive and with 8 solid years of start-up experience in his background, Paul brings a commercially pragmatic and international perspective to the WCET’s work programme.

For 7 years, Paul and his wife ran a part-time tourism business, taking foodies into the hills and out to sea to harvest New Zealand’s finest game and seafood.

Paul relaxes by running around Wellington’s hills, tending a small Ohariu Valley apiary, mixing ferocious martinis in his search for New Zealand’s finest gin and vermouth combination, and dreams of spending a year in Paris, learning how to cook properly with Le Cordon Bleu.

David Perks (WREDA Observer)

David Perks has held leadership positions in the promotion and development of Wellington for more than a decade and was instrumental in the creation of Visa Wellington On a Plate and the establishment of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust back in 2009.

David is a keen consumer of Wellington’s food and beverage outputs whether they be craft beer, coffee or any of its diverse food offerings.  Supporting the Trust in its endeavour to place what we consume as a key part of what attracts people to Wellington and what makes them want to stay is important to David as is focusing on supporting the sector reduce its carbon footprint through supporting producers make local provenance the natural approach to purchasing.

Jamie Tuuta

Jamie is an experienced director and has held governance positions over the past 20 years in the areas of iwi development, agribusiness, fishing, investment, health, housing, tourism, philanthropy and education. 

Jamie is the chair of Tourism New Zealand, the Māori Television Service, Venture Taranaki, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Mutunga, Ka Uruora and Te Kahui Maru GP. He is also a director of Moana Ltd an inshore fishing company and Taranaki Whānui Limited.

Jamie is a recipient of the 2010 Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leadership Award.  He was also awarded the Maori Young Business Leader of the Year Award in 2016.

Sarah Wickens

Sarah was the co-founder of the highly successful natural skincare company Trilogy. She and her sister sold this business in 2010 and Sarah now focuses her time on philanthropic endeavours as well as supporting various exciting entrepreneurial projects.

A typical day for Sarah can involve anything from her thinking about how she can connect people to one of her favourite charities - The Wellington City Mission, to discussing strategy with Jessie Wong - the CEO of the next big business to be born out of Wellington - Yu Mei handbags.

We have discovered that if you really want Sarah to perform in a Board meeting you need to have Clareville sausage rolls (or any sausage rolls to be honest) at the ready. Don’t forget the tomato sauce though!

Contact

Sarah Meikle is the Chief Executive of the WCET. If you have any questions or queries, please email us.