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A Passion For Food Sustainability

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Written by Fern Gavelek
Photography by Anna Pacheco

When you ask Scott Hiraishi what’s his favorite ingredient, he quickly replies, “anything sustainable from Hawai‘i Island.”

And why does he cook? “To make people happy and create a memorable experience,” he grins.

The executive chef at The Feeding Leaf, a Kona catering and event company, has a passion for food sustainability and fostering chef-farmer relationships. With over two decades of culinary experience, Hiraishi has been wowing Hawai‘i diners at numerous restaurants and community culinary fundraisers. Shy and humble when talking about himself, the 40-yearold beams with pride when discussing the Big Isle’s hard-working food providers.

“I admire my lettuce farmer, Zac,” shares Chef Scott. “His son is ill but he’s still farming every day, still producing beautiful food.”

To help Zac with medical expenses, Scott came up with a month of special lunch and dinner menus showcasing the farmer’s lettuce. Proceeds were donated to the effort.

“People like Zac are not just business relationships, but friendships,” continues Hiraishi.

The simple need to bring a prepared dish to baseball potlucks is what got a young Scott Hiraishi in the kitchen. He concocted desserts and local favorites like mochi to share with teammates. Ironically, Chef “doesn’t do desserts” anymore, explaining that baking is a more difficult, refined process. “Cooking is way easier and you can be more flexible.”

After graduating from O‘ahu’s Pearl City High School, Scott decided he would try a career in culinary arts. The teen enrolled in Hawai‘i Community College-West Hawai‘i and got a job at Sam Choy’s restaurant located in the then-Kona Bowl.

“Everything just fell into place; I was very fortunate,” recalls Scott, who worked alongside his mentor for 13 years. “Sam taught me to do it the right way; the way it’s supposed to be done—rather than taking shortcuts.”

Other culinary stints were at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay. When Sam Choy opened his Kai Lanai restaurant in Keauhou, Scott served as Chef De Cuisine for three years before helping form The Feeding Leaf last summer. The company took off with its aprons on, creating the coffee-themed Roast & Roots event and participating in the Hawai‘i Food and Wine Festival, where Chef Scott offered a Kona Coffee Rubbed Beef Carpaccio using 100 percent locally sourced ingredients. More recently, he prepared an entr.e of Molokai Venison with a canoe crop hash for the Kona Edible Event—a fundraiser for the “I Am Ha–loa” kalo documentary.

At The Feeding Leaf, Chef Scott creates meals for activity outfitters like Hawai‘i Forest and Trail and KONASTYLE Sailing Adventures. In an effort to educate visitors about island food sustainability, the menu incorporates local canoe crops—kalo (taro), ‘ulu (breadfruit), ‘uala (sweet potato) banana and coconuts— plus macadamia nuts, produce and value-added products like Original Hawaiian Chocolate, Punalu‘u Sweet Bread and Atebara Chips.

“Serving locally sourced food on our catamaran is an awesome tool,” notes Kalani Nakoa of KONASTYLE. “We tie the ingredients into our stories about Hawai‘i…I can point to where their banana came from as we bounce among ahupua‘a.”

Succinctly summing up his preference for using locally sourced ingredients, Chef says, “My passion with food focuses on being as sustainable as I can. I go out to farms to find out what’s new and fresh and I use it. I support the local economy.”