Aussie chef's quest ignites food revolution in tropical Fiji
HE WAS born in Papua New Guinea of Chinese parents, raised in Melbourne, trained in leading resorts across Queensland and is now leading a food revolution in Fiji.
The recipe of success for executive chef Lance Seeto was formulated more than three years ago when he left Australia to take up the lead culinary role at the five star Castaway Island Resort in Fiji.
He admits that until he arrived in the Pacific island paradise he hadn't found his true mission in life or work.
As a teenager in Melbourne, Lance remembers his time at the local school where he was the only Chinese student.
"I rebelled at the time and refused to accept my Chinese heritage. I went weeks where I wouldn't even look in the mirror because it reminded me I was different from the other kids," he said.
"As an executive chef in Australia I was excelling in my working hours, but as an individual I was failing myself. It was one week, one month, one year at a time."
Castaway Island's long-time Australian owner Geoffrey Shaw saw in Lance a chef with new ideas and energy and asked him to sign on for three years in 2009.
A strong commitment to Fijian heritage and traditions was embraced by Lance and now he has dedicated himself to encouraging Fijians to return to the nutritional cooking that their ancestors enjoyed and thrived on.
His tropical fusion cuisine embraces organic produce, herbal super foods and the ancient philosophy of eating food as medicine.
Last year he shared his food visions with 11 Pacific countries through his own prime time television show.
The first series of A Taste of Paradise was so successful the Fijian Ministry of Health came onboard as the sponsor after just one show and a second series will begin production in a few weeks' time.
Before he launched his TV career, Lance started to introduce traditional Fijian tastes and meals to the Castaway Island menu and he admits at first it was even difficult for his team of Fijian-born chefs to adopt it.
"My reasoning was that by providing our guests with fresh organic local food it would enhance their Fijian experience, which was all around them except in the food," Lance said.
"It made sense to cook great tasting Fijian food for our overseas guests rather than trying to emulate the same food they were eating in their restaurants at home."
Last month he took his quest to another level when he invited guests from around the world to attend the first Fijian Food Safari.
Over five days on Castaway they watched, tasted and listened as Lance extolled the virtues and tastes of traditional Fijian cooking.
The Lance Seeto Fijian journey continues to gain momentum and he has now committed to a further three years at Castaway Resort and the first Fijian traditional foods cookbook will bear his name in just a few weeks.
His new Fijian signature dishes are now part of the regular menu at one of Fiji's leading resorts.
Lance is living the resort's philosophy to embrace the true traditions and lifestyle of Fiji.
*The writer was a guest of Flight Centre and Adventure World.