Ed Morita’s career path wasn’t fondant smooth. After graduating from the culinary program at Kapi‘olani Community College 10 years ago, he spent several years working as a pastry chef on the Mainland before returning home in 2007. He did some consulting work before landing a pastry chef position at Longhi’s Restaurant at Ala Moana Center. Then, two years into it, he crushed his right hand in one of the machines. That injury nearly ended his culinary career. But a year ago— after years of rehab, physical therapy and a lot of surgeries— he was named pastry chef at the newly opened Highway Inn in Kaka‘ako. Despite some limitations — he suffered nerve damage— Morita, now 36, has been able to juggle both baking and blogging. And his life has never been better.
What is your tattoo?
On Morita’s inner right forearm are the words, “Match Tough.” Beneath it is the kanji character for “sacrifice.”
When did you get it?
Morita got “Match Tough” in 2001. He had just moved to West Virginia to work at The Greenbriar.
What was the inspiration?
Morita wanted to remember what his mentor, Ernst Hiltbrand, had told him back when he was one of his apprentices at KCC. He told Morita that since he was such a talented baker, he wouldn’t be allowed to bake bread in that first year. “He wanted to make me, ‘match tough,’ which meant a pastry chef doesn’t just bake bread or decorate cakes,” Morita explains. “He had to do everything in the kitchen.”
Jeff Scheer moved to Maui 10 years ago after seeing a video his cousin put together of his three years living on the island. “I watched it and said to myself, ‘That looks insane. I gotta check that out,’” he says. “So I got on a plane and was here. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know how long I was going to stay, I just came and never left.” A couple of years after moving, Scheer, 33, started Maui Executive Catering, utilizing the fresh ingredients grown on Maui.
What is your tattoo?
He has an artichoke on his left forearm and a lilikoi vine right above it, snaking up his arm, across part of his chest, over his shoulder and down his back.
When did you get it?
Scheer got the artichoke tattoo two years ago and the lilikoi vine six months ago, both done at Pāʻia Tattoo Parlor.
What was the inspiration?
Growing up in Athens, Ohio, Scheer ate artichokes at every special occasion. His grandmother liked to serve it simply steamed with a homemade hollandaise sauce. “It reminds me of something we always had at the dinner table growing up,” he says. “It was always a race to get to the heart!” For his catering business, he works with two farms, both in upcountry Maui about 3,500 feet above sea level, which grow artichokes. “When you’re on the farm, surrounded by artichokes, it fills you with this sort of peacefulness and all your stress goes away,” he says. “There is no noise except for the bees buzzing, and the views are amazing.” He added the lilikoi vine six months ago because he loves its beauty and flavor. “The flavor is so unbelievably intense,” he says. “And when balanced with sweet and spicy things, the opportunities are endless.”
Ed Kenney’s culinary philosophy is written all over his body — literally. On his left bicep is a small, black snail — the logo for the Slow Food movement. And on his forearm is an old sailor-style tattoo of a taro plant with a banner across it that reads, “Aloha ʻĀina.” Both represent the kind of food Kenney, chef/owner of town and Kaimukī Superette, strives to prepare and serve in his kitchens. “‘Aloha ʻĀina’ is love of the land,” says Kenney, 46. “Or, another way to look at it, the love of that which provides us food.”
What is your tattoo?
On his left bicep is a small, black snail, the logo on the back cover of the influential 2007 book, “Slow Food Nation,” by Carlo Petrini. (The actual movement started back in the ‘80s.)
When did you get it?
Kenney got this tattoo six years ago by close friend Gemma Hazen, now his bookkeeper and director of special projects. They were in culinary school together at Kapi‘olani Community College and opened town together. (He was the chef/owner, she was the morning barista.)
What was the inspiration?
In a nutshell, Slow Food is a global movement founded to counter the rise of fast food, promoting, instead, traditional and regional cuisines and a stronger commitment to the community and environment. This resonates with the way Kenney, who served as the Hawai‘i delegate to the movement’s international conference in 2006, cooks his food and runs his restaurants. (His mantra has long been, “Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.”) “It’s really about reconnecting people to the food they eat and those they eat with,” Kenney says. “It’s about promoting good, clean and fair food. It’s the same thing we have in Hawaiian — ‘ai pono. That’s what it means to me.”
Recipe by Chef Kevin Hanney Photography by Mieko Horikoshi
A great flavor change-up for your BLT sandwich! You can make it like a traditional BLT or the way I like to— on rye toast with our Ho Farm pickled Gherkin relish and caramelized Kula onion aioli.
3 Tbs. real maple syrup 3 Tbs. whole grain mustard 1 clove thin slice garlic 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice dash salt
Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl. Let stand refrigerated for 1-2 hours
Chicken Skin Bacon
12 chicken skins salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325. Place chicken skins flat on parchment paper on sheet pan. Brush both sides lightly with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place parchment paper on top and then another sheet pan.
Place in oven for approximately 45 minutes. Remove the top sheet pan and parchment paper and baste with glaze. Leave uncovered and bake for another 10-15 minutes more. Remove and cool.
By Vanessa Wolf Photography by Pacific Potography & Mieko Horikoshi
Monthly culinary collaboration for taking Hawai‘i’s cuisine to another level.
On a misty October morning on Maui, two dozen culinary professionals and enthusiasts gathered at Haiku’s Mālama Farms. The assembled group looked on with a combination of interest, excitement and— in some cases— horror.
The occasion? The dispatch and processing of ten Muscovy ducks to be used in the creation of Ka‘ana Kitchen’s Chef Isaac Bancaco’s first-ever Chef Bloc series dinner.
This statewide collaboration of chefs, sommeliers and mixologists will happen once a month at Andaz Maui in Wailea. Dinners are limited to a dozen participants and the meals focus on quality, artisanship and creativity.
“The vision involves bringing the industry together in a format where they can go ‘all out’ without volume, cost or staffing parameters,” explained Bancaco. “Moreover, from that platform we hope to provide an experience that inspires locals and visitors alike.”
Held in Ka‘ana Kitchen’s intimate Andaz Salon, the Chef Bloc series is likely to wow even the most jaded farm-to-table aficionados.
For the opening dinner in November 2014, Bancaco was joined by chefs Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering and Sheldon Simeon of Migrant Maui.
Each were furnished with three ducks and encouraged to let their creativity run wild. The resulting nine-course meal featured such dishes as Duck Neck with Li Hing Mui and Shiso (Simeon) and Cured Duck Breast with Kupa‘a Roots (Scheer). It’s safe to say they lived up to— if not exceeded— expectations.
Even dessert got the Muscovy treatment with Foie and Chocolate Pots De Crème accompanied by a “Butterfinger” made from duck fat (Bancaco).
The intimate dinners are limited to a dozen guests in order to allow an interactive environment where diners can watch the process, ask questions, and even help plate the dishes.
“How often do you get to enjoy a meal prepared by two or three of your favorite restaurants and have an active role in the food preparation itself?” Bancaco enthused.
The diners aren’t the only ones benefitting.
“It’s about collaboration,” he continued. “How do we make Maui’s – and all of Hawai‘i’s – cuisine the best we can? We are involving chefs who share similar food philosophies and when we come together to create these meals, we learn from one another. My hope is that statewide we start bouncing ideas back and forth and ultimately, as a result, Hawai‘i is going to enjoy better cuisine.”
Although born and raised in the upcountry Maui town of Kula, Chef Bancaco did not grow up cooking.
Rather, one of his most poignant culinary epiphanies occurred at the hands of renowned Hawaiian chef Sam Choy.
“My grandmother would take me on what amounted to grandma and grandson dates,” Bancaco chuckled. “I was in high school when she took me to Sam Choy’s in Oahu. I don’t remember exactly what I had, but I remember walking out of the restaurant and thinking, ‘It would be really cool if I could learn how to recreate those dishes and that experience.’ It opened my mind to the idea that not only can you sit down in a restaurant and have wonderful food, but you can have a great interaction with a server and an elevated experience overall.”
Travel has also had a significant influence on the chef and his culinary journey. “Around my junior year of high school I went on a trip to Japan to play baseball. While there, I stayed with one of the players and his parents owned what amounted to a bed and breakfast. The mother would cook lunch and dinner every day, and as a result I was exposed to traditional Japanese food for the first time.”
Growing up in Hawai‘i, Bancaco had been exposed to elements of Japanese cuisine, but hadn’t realized it.
“I’m five different ethinicities, but when I was a kid I didn’t know kimchi was Korean per se. Similarly, I had no idea musubi was Japanese-influenced and I certainly didn’t realize where all the components of a plate lunch came from. Travel brought some definition to my childhood and gave context to what I’d been eating.”
This multicultural awareness can be found in Bancaco’s cuisine.
At the inaugural Chef Bloc dinner, one of his dishes presented a deconstructed Peking duck. Featuring orange peel, duck heart and shavings of aged pa’i’ai (the thick, mochi-like precursor to poi), no one can accuse the chef of playing it safe. Similarly, his foie malasada with lilikoi sugar found the familiar Portuguese donut loaded with unexpected flavor profiles.
Moreover, Bancaco does not plan to limit upcoming Chef Bloc events to those associated with fine dining. Glancing at the 2015 schedule, everyone from food truck virtuosos to plate lunch wizards make the cut.
Although the resulting menus are likely to be as varied as the invited chefs themselves, locally sourced products will remain a feature of upcoming Chef Bloc dinners.
Future themes promise a focus on lamb, fish and even foraged products. But will there be more first-hand bloodshed?
Perhaps, although it turns out the trip to Mālama Farms was technically an afterthought.
“We had heard of ducks being raised on Maui, specifically in Haiku,” Bancaco explained. “Initially, I was going to have them processed and just be done with it, but it occurred to me that many chefs don’t really understand where the food comes from.”
Originally limited to culinary staff, word of the field trip spread to other Andaz employees and resulted in a group of 23 participants.
“It was all about increasing the understanding of the full progression: to see the ducks alive and well and healthy and then, well, going through the procedures of processing them.
“Wasting food is a huge problem in America. Opportunities like this help us remember that what’s on your plate was once living, which in turn helps us develop a true appreciation – and a true commitment – to the food itself.”
Held the second Saturday of every month in Andaz Maui’s Ka‘ana Kitchen, getting on the waitlist for future Chef Bloc dinners is as easy as contacting the resort.
Dietary trends can be such fickle creatures. Yesterday’s celebrated eats (comfort food, the paleo diet, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) may well be tomorrow’s culinary villain. In the modern kitchen what you grew up eating because you were told it was good for you may later be proven to be, in fact, just the opposite.
Now halfway through the 2010s, it’s clear one unlikely ingredient that has for decades been relegated to the fringes of popular cooking is making a comeback: the utterly unpretentious pig fat we call lard.
For hundreds of years lard was the cooking lipid of choice. Until the early 20th century Americans used lard the way most of us use butter, processed shortening or vegetable oils today. In the 1870s a relatively new soap and candle firm, Procter & Gamble, was also producing a food it called “family lard.”
But shortly after P&G introduced a new product called Crisco® in 1911, lard began its long descent into the culinary backwaters. As reported by NPR’s Planet Money in 2012, lard didn’t just fade away, it was effectively pushed out the door as processed food manufacturers promoted hydrogenated vegetable shortening as a “better” alternative to lard.
Before long lard was not only sidelined, but redefined as something just plain gross. The name alone—lard—became a term of abuse, and a rather bad one at that. These days, however, lard is increasingly seen in a new light and more than a few of Hawai‘i’s chefs are embracing it (ahem) whole hog.
In Honolulu, chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney believes in lard. He buys at least 50 swine a year (hybrids like Yorkshire-landrace and Berkshire/kurobuta hogs) from Shinsato Farm on windward O‘ahu. An ardent local supporter of local ag, Kenney says lard has gotten a bum rap. He points out the irony of how, in the pursuit of low-fat diets, people have spurned lard, only to later learn that artificial alternatives are no better, and may be worse, than natural fats.
Lard — simply rendered pig fat — is around 40 percent saturated fat and just over 50 percent unsaturated fat. Its appearance is pure white and it comes in several forms: the thick, white opaque backfat (or ‘fatback’), a hind leg fat and the leaf lard which is a drier fat taken from around the pig’s belly.
Kenney renders lard in a pot on a stove using a small amount of water over low heat. After straining the lard, he Vacu-Seals it in half-pound blocks which he sells at his Kaimuki Superette. He says his leaf lard “flies off the shelves” as more customers become familiar with the product.
For Kenney, cooking with lard is about staying true to local, natural ingredients when he makes luganica, sanguinaccio and wild boar sausages. Rather than dismissing pig fat, Kenney exclaims, “praise the lard!”
On Maui, Chris Kulis, chef de cuisine at Capische? at Hotel Wailea buys around ten hogs a year from Mālama Farm in Ha‘iku. He prizes lard for making his salami and sausages more flavorful and because it doesn’t melt away. Rendered lightly, it makes for a savory internal garnish in blood sausage and, treated with salt, sugar, herbs, Kulis cures it into lardo which can be sliced and eaten with sweet and spicy foods.
Having first tried lardo with walnuts and honey in Italy, Kulis has done the same in Hawai‘i, using macadamia nuts, pairing it with honey or guava mustard. Before searing lean white fish like onaga and opaka, Kulis wraps the filets in paper-thin sheets of lardo for a crispy texture outside and deep flavor inside.
He reminds us that the fat from a pig, which is what lard is, makes imu-cooked pork so flavorful, tender and moist.
If you want to incorporate lard into your own kitchen, Kulis suggests using it to season a pasta dish instead of pancetta or guanciale.
“People shouldn’t be scared of lard. It’s just a seasoning… another way to cook.”
Maui’s best island chefs are side-by-side when it comes to mentoring Maui Culinary Academy students
“We are not creators; only combiners of the created.” ― Ryan Lilly
“On most nights, us ‘old guard’ chefs are fierce competitors. But when it comes to supporting the growth of the ‘new guard’, the up and coming chefs, our walls come down to train and mentor and support.
That is Chef Tylun Pang, Executive Chef at The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui at Wailea, whose culinary career in the Hawaiian Islands spans 40 years. He’s sitting across from me in a conference room, and we’re gathered to discuss the upcoming benefit event he co-founded, The Noble Chef.
The Maui Culinary Academy’s annual Noble Chef gala is now in it’s 18th year, and is the academy’s largest fundraiser. Student mentorship is built into the fabric of the event, and its Pang’s unwavering support of the academy that makes the event possible from year to year.
He continues, “for the ‘old dogs’ in business, it’s a responsibility that comes with the job. Otherwise we don’t leave behind a good legacy. That is what The Noble Chef is all about, the principles it was founded upon.”
Right then, something occurred to me: the culinary arts are not only about flexing great food skills, creating delicious dishes, and wowing foodies with epic menus. A large “piece of the pie”, so to speak, is about chefs becoming custodians of culinary knowledge, and taking on the responsibility to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of chefs.
It takes patience and a sincere dedication to mentorship in order let someone new in to “your” kitchen, to make room at your side for them, and to openly share your craft. Thankfully, many of our chefs believe that must happen, otherwise, the skills, the traditions, the recipes would die.
Some of the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are recipes. These days, with the hustle and bustle of work life and the constant struggle to balance it all, there is sadly a decline in food knowledge being passed down within families. This chain has been interrupted, as people are now a lot less likely to prepare food at home from scratch.
In Hawai‘i, many unique recipes have been handed down for generations but have not, until recently, been properly documented. For quite some time, the local food culture wasn’t respected and therefore was not reflected in commercial food establishments. That isn’t the case any longer. As older generations pass behind us, it is our community – especially our island chefs, our culinary school instructors, and now their students – that have kept these cultural treasures on the front burner, and in so doing, perpetuating the stories and flavors of our island ancestors. Now, thanks to them, Hawaiian food culture is celebrated. It’s exciting, it’s more than food. It’s become a movement.
When I ask the Maui Culinary Academy’s program coordinator Chris Speere about “the old guard” passing down food knowledge to his students, he proudly says “It’s been a long journey in reciprocity, and its made a dramatic impact on our students and in kitchens across the nation.”
Our chefs know that with knowledge comes responsibility, and that in a nutshell is the cycle of mentorship: we share what we know to keep the things we love alive.
It is because of our passionate, seasoned island chefs that culinary students today have the opportunity to taste their collective food future. Under the guidance of their culinary champions, they are not only encouraged to embrace the knowledge, but to also take it beyond the status quo, to take the old recipes to new places. It’s a torch they keep aflame with inspiration, and they carry it forward with them into their future careers as chefs.
Eventually, down the road when they are called on to mentor an up-and-coming chef, they too will feel the “walls” come down, with love.
Intimacy with what we consume contributes to our wholeness
The morning had a mythic quality. Mist bathed the southeast- ern slope of Haleakala and a rainbow hovered over the tree line, offering a sort of benediction. Dressed in camouflage, Brian Etheredge threaded through the tall grass followed by his friend and cooking partner at Capische restaurant, Chris Kulis.
Between them, the award-winning chefs had dressed scores of animals, many more than most hunters. Kulis had spent the past few years sharpening his charcuterie skills, buying whole pigs from Ma-lama Farms and using everything from tail to snout to make delectable salami, sausages, meatballs and more. But the chef had yet to dispatch an animal himself. The gravity of taking a life was not lost on the new father, who left his baby and her mother at home to come along on this overnight excursion.
The hunting trip was a fundraiser. Robin Kean, a commercial property manager and avid hunter, came up with the idea four years ago. Wanting to blend his passion for both hunting and charity work, he figured that a guided hunt on scenic Kaupo Ranch could fetch top dollar as an auction item. To further entice bidders, he contacted Brian Etheredge—owner of one of Maui’s best restaurants and an experienced hunter himself and asked the chef to add a catered gourmet dinner to the package. Etheredge readily agreed. The team has since hosted five charity hunts and raised $16,000 for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Grow Some Good, a school garden initiative.
This year’s hunt couldn’t have gone better.The winning bidder, Jason Davis from Colorado, arrived with his family Thursday night. On Friday, he bagged a big buck, a goat, and a pig—the “Kaupo- Grand Slam.”
“We’re going to need a bigger cooler,” he joked to his wife, Elizabeth, as he and the other men skinned the animals. The hunting party included the Davises, Kean, a few assistant guides and the two chefs.There was more than enough enough for everyone at the Kaupo Ranch cabin, a gracious home built in 1929 and decorated with relics from past hunting adventures.This weekend’s hunters were after meat, not trophies, but when Davis took down a buck with a perfect set of antlers, his smile grew at least five watts brighter.
Axis deer are beautiful animals with tawny, white-spotted pelts. Sadly, they’re invasive pests on Maui. Wild herds grow faster than hunters can cull them and hungry deer ravage island farms, ranch- lands and wilderness areas. Davis was delighted to help thin the population while procuring food for his family. “Axis deer are hunted by tigers in India, so they’re smart,” he said.“It’s a fun, hard hunt. I’m lucky to have great guides.” But Kean, who grew rambling through the back forty at Kaupo Ranch, knew the animals’ habits. He led his party straight into their midst.
Dinner that night was a feast of heroic proportions. Etheredge lorded over the outdoor barbecue like Prometheus, grilling venison shot at the ranch the week before. Flames leapt high as the sunlight faded on the horizon. Inside, he and Kulis maneuvered in the cramped vintage kitchen with ease.
They brought out dish after mouthwatering dish, covering every inch of the massive dining room table. First came platters piled with cheeses and charcuterie: Hawaiian chili soppressata and prosciutto that Kulis had been waiting a year to debut. Then came kale salad with fat hearts of palm and guava vinaigrette, steamy black forbidden rice, red curry studded with Kona lobster, pork ribs slathered in mustard, and a salt-encrusted ‘o-pakapaka caught just offshore.
The chefs used local ingredients to handcraft everything from the pickled fennel agrodolce to the ono brandade, an Old World purée of salted ono, garlic, and potato emulsified with olive oil. It was an overwhelming offering—one fully appreciated by the famished huntsmen.They nearly fought over the venison meatballs. Heaped atop fennel linguine and sprinkled with Parmesan reggiano shavings, the savory little globes were so good that half the table groaned while eating them. Same with the scrumptious trotters, which were “as gluttonous as it gets,” according to Kulis, who made them out of Ma-lama Farms pigs’ feet, tongue and cheek. Elizabeth especially liked these, and requested recipes to take home along with her freezer full of fresh meat. But best of all was the grilled venison loin: as tender and noble as filet mignon, only more flavorful.
The chefs enjoyed the rare chance to pull up chairs and dine with old and new friends.The conversation ranged from exploits in the kitchen to near-misses in the field. Davis expressed gratitude for the wild-harvested food.“I know who touched this meat,” he said. “I know it didn’t sit in a bunch of chemicals for weeks before it got shipped.”
As they ate, they waxed philosophic: meat should always be pro- cured this way, with consciousness and care for the animal and the environment. We are what we eat, and an intimacy with what we consume—where it comes from and how it lived—contributes to our wholeness. Robin reflected on his first hunt, at age 26.“I thought I’d have more remorse than I did,” he said.“But when I was out there, I discovered senses I didn’t know I had. It made me realize that this is something humans are made for.”
Kean and Etheredge both hunt with bows, having swapped bullets for arrows years ago. Davis marveled that his “Grand Slam” included his first bow kill—a goat he felled with an arrow. Bow hunting requires greater tracking and stalking skills. It’s not as violent; a good shot passes cleanly through the animal with less kinetic energy.“When a gun hunter sees an animal, the hunt is over,” said Etheredge.“When a bow hunter sees an animal, the hunt begins.”
For dessert, he and Kulis shared sweets from The Market in Wailea, their new gourmet deli. Though full, everyone dug spoons into the tiny Mason jars filled with liliko‘i curd, Valrhona chocolate, and dulce de leche. It was well after midnight by the time the bone-tired celebrants drifted off into their separate rooms. Before dawn broke the next morning, the men set out to pursue their favorite game. Yesterday’s fine haul meant that today’s hunt was pressure-free, a bonus round. Kulis shadowed Etheredge, who stopped to perform a personal ritual before entering the hunting grounds. Removing his gloves, he touched his fingers to the earth. He asked for permission from the land, and those that came before him, to take an animal. He asked for a safe flight for his arrow.
The men followed the sporadic barks of deer through the brush, and soon found a large herd grazing in a meadow.The rut (mating season) was in full force; the bucks were crazed. The largest males bellowed, stamped and rammed their racks against one another. Though 50 does sounded alarms as the hunters approached, the bucks focused on their fight.
The men stood on a small ridge, a light wind at their back. Kulis hung behind as Etheredge hunkered down into the grass and crawled to the shelter of a nearby tree. He stood and watched a healthy doe skirt the edge of the herd. He drew back his bow.The animal stepped into range.The hunter held his breath and released the arrow. Startled, the herd flew towards the coastline, leaving behind a large doe lying still in the grass. A nearly invisible blood trail showed that the archer’s shot was true; she hadn’t run more than 15 feet before falling. Etheredge petted the doe’s soft fur and thanked her for feeding his family. Hefting her onto his shoulders, he carried her back to camp.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½-inch discs. Place potatoes into boiling water as you peel and slice them to prevent oxidation, which can cause the potato to discolor. Par boil potato slices for 5 minutes. The potatoes should be under-done, as they will finish cooking on the grill. Heat grill. Dry potato slices well, rub with coconut oil, and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Place sweet potato slices over the fire on the grill. Depending on the amount of heat, be careful not to burn the potato slices before they are cooked through. If grill fire is too hot, move potatoes away from direct heat and close grill top until sweet potatoes are done. Arrange sweet potatoes on serving platter and drizzle with honeyed hot sauce. Sprinkle herbed macadamia nut mixture (recipe below) and serve warm.
Honeyed Hot Sauce:
½ C. local honey
4 Tbs. favorite local hot sauce
¼ Tbs. sea salt
Blend well, adjusting hot sauce to desired heat level.
Herbed Macadamia Nut Topping:
1 C. roasted unsalted macadamia nuts
1 tsp. smoked sea salt (or regular)
1 Tbs. cane sugar
2 Tbs. rosemary, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse mixture to a fluffy, medium-coarse consistency. Avoid a steady grind as you do not want macadamia nut butter. This topping keeps for two weeks in the refrigerator and is great on all kinds of foods: fish, chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes, even popcorn.
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