A taste of PNG: Airways Hotel’s signature chef Molly Vaieke is cooking local dishes and preparing local talent for a career in food
By Paul Chai
After 15 years of rising through the ranks in the Airways Hotel kitchens to her current role as signature chef, Molly Vaieke is now in charge of mentoring the next generation of Papua New Guinean chefs.
Vaieke has described that her growth in various roles has been a result of the continuous support given by Airways. Additionally she says that the company has always been "a place where locals are encouraged to be who they want to be." Today, Vaieke is paying this way forward.
"We hire young individuals and help them broaden their knowledge and become better chefs,” Vaieke says.
The culinary training is also a two-way street with Vaieke, and the team at Airways as it also allows lessons from the influx of young hospitality workers. "We learn and they learn and it can lead to new local dishes on the menu for guests to enjoy," Vaieke says.
Airways draws business travellers and tourists to its restaurants like Vue Restaurant and Lounge Bar, that looks across the Owen Stanley Ranges including a fine diner Bacchus or casual Italian eatery Deli KC.
The hotel has a long history of great International dishes but has recently added a lot more local Papua New Guinean dishes to its repertoire.
"Previously we would put dishes like aupa with coconut chicken on the menu for special occasions but there is now a local menu all the time," says Vaieke.
Dishes like grilled local prawns with papaya salad or a puff pastry stuffed with sautéed aibika leaves can now be found at Airways, with few seasonal twists depending on what Vaieke finds at the local markets.
"You create something that looks perfect and then when someone eats it and enjoys it, it makes you feel good too.”