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The Ten: Aaron McLean

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Name and job title

Aaron McLean. Apprentice storyteller, in pictures, video and words - revolving around food, the food system and its intersections with environment and society.

Where were you born, and where do you live now?

I was born in the countryside on the outskirts of Queenstown, New Zealand. I have liven in Auckland for the last twenty years but am en route to the countryside of Aotearoa’s Te Tai Tokerau (Far North).

How you describe what you do? I have a few rhyming hats. I’ve worked as a photographer, and more recently video storyteller, in New Zealand’s food media for many years. But out of a frustration with the failure of the mainstream media to look more deeply into food than their focus on new restaurants and ingredients and recipes, I was inspired to help found Stone Soup Syndicate - a crowdfunded cooperative free street press, which seeks to dig deeper into the global and local food system.

How much did you spend on your last cup of coffee?

$4 (NZD)

What is one ingredient that is crucial to your life?

Local organic red wine

What does a culinary system mean to you?

It means economic and environmental justice . Of course it mostly means the opposite, but that’s where my sights are set.

How does your immediate locale your work? I live just off Dominion Rd in Auckland, so I’m fuelled by Sichuan noodles and Masala dosa and soba and Laksa and…. this steeps me in a plural food culture, at odds with New Zealand’s desperate desire for a (singular) New Zealand Food Culture or ‘The New Zealand Food Story’. Auckland is also firstly a Polynesian city, so it is more immersed in indigenous and Pacifica dialogues than other parts of the (settler colonial) country can be.

Where do you draw inspiration from, in your work?

From all of the above, but also from economic, environment and food writers, anthropology, history, fiction, film, music, farmers, winemakers, cooks, friends, conversation, all of the more than human world…

What impact do you want to have?

To foster active hope by shinning light on the abundance of inspiration at the grassroots. And to plant as many trees as I can in the years remaining to me.

What change do you want to see in the culinary system?

I want to see a greater understanding of the intersections between history and power and the food system - land and labor, colonisation/capitalism. I want to see that more honest history leads to a localised, decentralised food system, governed through participatory democracy at a human scale. I want to see food sovereignty. I want to see reparations and redistribution of land and power. Food is central to power in our world, it has the potential to bring us together in a pluriverse of conviviality (to channel Gustavo Esteva), but in the last 500 years it has been used to achieve the opposite.

We ask all our interviewees to please send us two photos: one that represents themselves and one that represents their work.

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