Category: Community

2018 Maui Ag Fest Moves Toward Zero Waste

Written by Rebecca Pang
Images courtesy of Maui County Farm Bureau

What’s the hottest agriculture event on Maui? For many, it’s the Maui Ag Fest, a community-focused showcase of farmers, food booths, local chefs and family-friendly activities. The upcoming festival takes place on Saturday, April 7 at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, Maui.

Now in its 11th year, organizers at the Maui Ag Fest are trying something new — to move the event toward greater sustainability and zero waste.

It only seems natural for an event that highlights local agriculture and Maui-grown products to also consider diverting its waste in overall operations.

What is Zero Waste?

Simply put, it’s a goal of reducing the amount of material we put into landfills by reusing, composting or recycling items. This is a process doesn’t happen overnight, especially for an event as large as the Maui Ag Fest with over 8,000 people expected to attend to enjoy local food, shop for value added items educate themselves on the local agriculture for the one-day event in Central Maui.

To that end, edible Hawaiian Islands, Maui Huliau Green Events and Sustainable Island Products have signed on to support Maui Ag Fest’s Zero Waste efforts. They will all help with staffing, management and implementation of steps toward the Zero Waste program.

Maui Huliau’s two objectives at a Zero Waste event include:

  1. Divert 75% or more of the event’s waste away from the landfill
  2. Encourage lifestyle changes for people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials become reusable

“The diversion of waste for compost is intrinsically tied to agriculture,” said Ashley O’Colmain, program assistant for Maui Huliau Green Events. “Fifty percent of the waste collected at each event is turned into healthy compost which is necessary for sustainable agriculture.”

In the past year, Maui Huliau has helped events like the La Ulu at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, The Taste of School Gardens, Waldorf Holiday Craft Faire, Kula Festival and Ho’omau move to a Zero Waste Program.

Even the Super Bowl, massive as that is, went Zero Waste.

How can you help? 

Maui Ag Fest has confirmed its Grand Taste and the Maui Legacy Pancake Breakfast will be Zero Waste, and they are working on educating food vendors on the benefits of using compostable and biodegradable food containers and utensils. Some, like Maui Fresh Streatery, Three’s Bar and Grill, and Fork & Salad, have already moved to using compostables from companies like Sustainable Island Products.

Look for the Zero Waste stations at the Grand Taste and Maui Legacy Pancake Breakfast, and help volunteers by sorting your trash, recyclables, and compost into the correct bins.

You can also bring your own shopping bags and reusable utensils to the festival. Finally, as you’re enjoying Maui Ag Fest, if you see trash on the ground, pick it up and put it into the trash bin.

Being a community based event, organizers are still seeking volunteers to help support efforts. Here is a link to sign up https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/2262715/false#/invitation

Taste of Upcountry: Bringing the Farm to the Table in Support of Kids’ Education on Maui

img_4281The board of directors, staff, faculty and parents of Montessori School of Maui have announced a brand-new culinary event, “Taste of Upcountry”, scheduled for Saturday, October 8th, 2016, 6:00-10:00 PM on the beautifully manicured grounds of their campus at 2933 Baldwin Avenue in Makawao. Individual tickets and sponsor tables are now on sale. Proceeds support this nonprofit school that was founded in 1978 and has since grown to make major impacts on the lives of Maui’s keiki.

Taste of Upcountry is designed to highlight Maui’s many talented chefs and diversity of local farmers and purveyors, who provide an abundance of food and produce on the island. The launch of this event will create a tradition of sharing and enjoying farm to table cuisine with the community.

While great food is the centerpiece of the evening, the festivities (hosted by well-known Maui emcee Kainoa Horcajo) also include a silent and live auction, and live acoustic music by Benny Uyetake and ManaBrasil. Cocktails, wine and beer will be available for purchase. The event open to the members of the public that are 21 years of age and older.
As the Montessori School of Maui’s primary fundraising event for the 2016-17 school year, Taste of Upcountry event will generate proceeds to support the school’s operating budget.  Each year, the school raises funds for student programs, teachers’ professional development, campus maintenance costs and tuition assistance for students.

As of press time, the following chefs, and restaurants are participating, (subject to change):
Farm to Table Dinner Tastes By:

Sean Christensen, Maui Country Club
Ben Diamond, The Wooden Crate at Lumeria
Gary King, Oceanside Maui
Cameron Lewark, Spago at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
Jennifer Nguyen, Saigon Cafe
Sheldon Simeon, Tin Roof Maui
Roger Stettler, Taverna
Kevin Bell, Ulupalakua Ranch Store Grill
Uma Dugied, Star Anise Catering
Desserts by:
Emily King, Oceanside Restaurant

Cocktails & Bar Service By:

Ross Steidel, Perfect Pour Maui

Featuring:
Hali’imaile Distilling/Pau Vodka

Taste of Upcountry’s corporate sponsors include: 

Hawaii Petroleum
Pacific Rimland/Goodfellow Brothers Inc.

Hope Builders
The Rice Partnership

General Admission tickets start at: $100. Seated General Admission Tickets are $125 and VIP Tables of 10 start at $2500. To purchase tickets, or to find more information and a description of VIP perks, please visit: https://momi.ejoinme.org/tasteofupcountry or call: (808) 573-0374

Hana Ranch & Hana Ranch Provisions supports edible Hawaiian Islands Farm Day

After working up an appetite visiting your favorite farm this Saturday May 21st, swing by Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia for their special Farm Day offering– half off all burgers! These burgers are a locavore’s dream come true with their locally-raised, grass-fed beef, island grown produce, and house made buns and condiments. Hana Ranch Provisions will also have a stand set up outside the restaurant promoting their new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Stop by to see sample CSA boxes, talk story about the Ranch’s sustainable growing practices, and sign up for a box of your own. Don’t forget to share pictures and stories at #EHIFarmDay16!

IMG_1705

And the next time you’re cruising East Maui, make sure to stop by Hana Ranch’s newest culinary installment, the Hana Burger food truck! Liberated from the typical asphalt and gravel parking lots we’re accustomed to finding food trucks in, Hana Burger sits on a grassy slope near the Ranch itself just south of Hana Town. The truck’s sparkling silver exterior will catch your eye amidst the pastoral green landscape, and reel you in for delicious, locally sourced burgers, fish sandwiches, salads and more. Open Monday – Friday, 11:00am to 3:00pm.

IMG_1113

edible Hawaiian Islands will be hosting their 3rd annual Farm Day on Saturday May 21, 2016!  Simply, we encourage you to SHOP at a farmers’ market, VISIT a farm and THANK a farmer then share your experience through social media by using our hashtag #eHIFarmDay16.

IMG_1117

Celebrating 25 Years Of Slow Food


By Tove Danovich
Photography by Alexa Van de Walle

A Conversation with Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini

It was the food movement’s version of a Fleetwood Mac concert: a question-and-answer session with Slow Food’s founder Carlo Petrini and its international vice president, Alice Waters of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. They’d come from warmer coasts—Italy and California—in honor of Slow Food’s 25th anniversary.

The backyard of Roberta’s, the Brooklyn restaurant where the event was held, was a sea of pizza boxes and checkered picnic blankets. Whatever total capacity was for the outdoor space, it had been reached. Most of the audience were in that 20s-to-30s age group who had never really lived in a world without the influence of Alice Waters or Slow Food (Chez Panisse was founded in 1971 and Slow Food in 1989).

Though in the last decade we’ve witnessed local eating become trendy and urban farming a viable business model, the situation in the United States at the time of Slow Food’s founding was a bit of a culinary wasteland. There’s a good chance your neighborhood farmers’ market didn’t exist. Agricultural biodiversity had nothing to do with heirloom or traditional foods; it was the choice between red, green and yellow apples.

It took the combination of many voices to get us to today’s culinary landscape, and Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini were among the first to lead us there. Petrini planted the seeds of what would become the international Slow Food movement when he protested a McDonald’s opening on the Spanish Steps in Rome. For Waters, it was taste and a trip to France that led her to a lifetime of championing fresh, local foods.

Although in different countries and at different times, they were on the same page. Since 2002, Waters has served as vice president of Slow Food International, solidifying the ideological connection between her work and Petrini’s.

Carlo Petrini spoke in Italian throughout. “Not speaking English is also an example of biodiversity,” he said, getting a laugh from the audience. Though Petrini had a translator on hand, Patrick Martins of Heritage Foods USA did the official translation for the event.

If Petrini’s answers to the moderator’s questions felt like speeches, it may have had something to do with the audience hearing his appeals in Italian first. In a particularly evocative moment, he spoke of what it would be like to describe our current food system (“a criminal food system”) to his grandparents: “Do you know we live in a society where people spend more to get thin than to be fat, to nourish ourselves?”

That’s just the first of many problems Petrini and Waters continue to address when it comes to food. The difficulties seem endless—dwindling biodiversity, water scarcity looming on the horizon, land grabs — and though groups work tirelessly to combat them, it’s an uphill battle. Instilling Slow Food values, a phrase both Waters and Petrini mentioned multiple times, is central to this work.

“When you edibly educate kids,” Waters says, “they have a different set of values when they grow up.”

In a perfect world, Waters would love to see this form of education in every public school, “middle school kids, when they’re in the garden, don’t feel like they’re in school.” She would love to see children get school credit for eating well and be taught to cook with the seasons—ideally with locally and sustainably produced food. Nowadays, though, students lucky enough to have a garden or cooking program have classes slotted in as extracurricular enrichment. But food, Waters believes, is central to a real education. “They aren’t kitchen or garden classes; they’re courses in the lab of the garden and in the lab of the kitchen,” she says.

Though Petrini’s vision of educating new generations focuses more on the family—traditions and knowledge passed down from grandparents to grandchildren—he stands firmly beside Waters’ convictions.

“Alice seems all passive and tranquil but she is a force of nature,” he says. Farmers’ markets did not exist on the scale that they do now when he met her. Today a resurgence of markets in the United States and Europe has led to these events being known not in their native tongues but under the Americanized label of “farmers’ markets.”

It’s fascinating that the United States has become such a mecca for the food movement—and maybe it’s because we only had room to improve after exporting fast-food culture. In the last 20 years, Petrini had seen “unbelievably good things” coming from this country. He recalled there being only two kinds of beer when he first came to the United States. Now microbreweries spring up faster than a litter of rabbits. Organics and school gardens are proliferating. Where once generic cheddar, Kraft singles or Velveeta were the norm, domestic artisanal cheeses have come into their own.

“You were eating all these delicious microbes out of Europe and killing the same microbes here in the States,” Petrini says. Not any longer.

Because one of the most important changes is that events like the Carlo Petrini and Alice Waters talk exist at all. Though Slow Food certainly paved the way for creating a community around food, there are now scores of events and organizations devoted to eating carefully sprinkled throughout the United States. Even in New York City, people are doing their best to connect to their food. When Petrini asked how many attendees had gardens, roughly half the audience at Roberta’s raised their hands.

“I wasn’t looking for food, I was looking for taste,” Waters said of her own journey into the food movement. “I was looking for taste and then I found the farmers.”

Her reflection goes to show that not everyone falls into food advocacy for the same reasons or knows how far it will take us. Yet here we all are. And largely thanks to Petrini and Waters’ leadership, change has happened, is happening, and will continue to move forward for another 25 years and beyond.
For a recording of the interview, go to heritageradio.org.

Tove Danovich is the Founding Editor of Food Politic: Journal of Food News and Culture. Her work has been published in Modern Farmer, Miracle of Feeding Cities, Civil Eats, and others. She is currently working on a book about animal agriculture, sustainable farming, and vegetarianism.

The Chef Bloc

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.

Collage1

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.

collage5

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.

collage4

“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.”

collage9

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.

Pass The Pa’i’ai – Bound by Invisible And Profound Ties

Story by Shannon Wianecki

Photos by Sue Hudelson

When food is served family-style, you can tell who grew up with a passel of siblings: they’re the ones hawk-eyeing the dish as it’s passed from person to person. They calculate how many spoonfuls remain while ladling heaping portions into their neighbors’ bowls. Around the dinner table, I notice two opposite reactions in myself and those beside me. First, a mixture of impatience and anxiety. What if there is not enough? Because we’re adults and mostly mature, we’ve learned to quell the inner child that might tantrum if we don’t get as much as the others did. I have never gone hungry; I have no reason to worry that the bowl will be scraped clean before it reaches me. But just as often, I worry about those after me. Will they get enough?

Which gives rise to the second reaction: selflessness. Almost invariably, dinner guests take smallish portions, and leave something in the bowl. No one wants to be the one who empties the dish. And somehow, despite (or maybe because of) this self-deprivation, everyone leaves full. It reminds me of the parable when Jesus fed 5,000 people with just a few fish and loaves of bread. The more people shared, the more there was to share.

Last spring, Kāne‘ohe taro farmer Daniel Anthony asked Edible Hawaiian Islands to help fund the documentary, “I am Haloa.” The film, which is in post-production, follows three Kamehameha School seniors as they cultivate, harvest and eat taro three meals a day for 90 days. As the young women travel across the archipelago working with farmers and chefs, they root themselves in their native culture. For Hawaiians, taro is not only a dietary staple, it’s their eldest brother.

Our publisher Dania Katz knew immediately that she wanted to support the students’ effort. But rather than writing a check, she sponsored a benefit in the spirit of the film: a taro-themed supper. “I decided to feed the community,” says Katz, “to share how eating together can uplift a neighborhood or support a need in the community.”

When Travaasa Hana jumped in to co-sponsor the event, agreeing to host chefs, organizers and media at the five-star resort, everything fell into place. The dinner’s setting couldn’t have been more apropos: on the eve of the 22nd annual East Maui Taro Festival, at the resplendent Kahanu Garden. Just outside of tiny Hana town, the garden is home to the state’s largest living breadfruit collection, as well as a Polynesian canoe garden and Pi‘ilanihale Heiau, one of the most significant ancient temples in all of Hawai‘i.

Guests arrived in the late afternoon as the sun gilded the forested hillside. A huge rainstorm had swept the air clean the day before and the rolling lawn was extra green.

I Am Haloa Dinner at www.ediblehi.com

A single long banquet table waited beneath the trees as guests mingled under a tent, sipping cocktails and Big Wave Organics kombucha and enjoying Hawaiian steel guitar music.

Before we sat down, we toured the grounds. Quite by chance, Native Hawaiian cultural advisor and artist Sam Ka‘ai was in attendance and gave an impromptu talk in the canoe garden. He described how his ancestors migrated across the Pacific using the stars as guides and carrying in their voyaging canoes everything necessary for survival: breadfruit, bananas, sweet potato and taro.

Looming behind him, Pi‘ilanihale Heiau stood as testament to a powerful people. Ka‘ai further explained that the Hawaiian word for land, ‘āina, doesn’t just mean acreage, but the fertile soil that produces ‘ai, food. And with that in mind, the procession returned to the mobile kitchen where the chefs had prepared a feast.

Sitting on the grass and dressed in a malo (loincloth), Daniel Anthony pounded chunks of steamed taro with a stone pestle. Every so often, he’d scoop a few doughy clumps onto fresh leaves and his young helpers would scamper off to distribute them in the crowd. In my mind, there is no better food than this. Pa‘i ‘ai has a consistency similar to Japanese mochi: chewy, starchy and satisfying. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals (more calcium and iron than rice or potatoes) and is fit for travel and long-term storage. It’s what nourished the first Hawaiians on their trans-Pacific voyages. When mixed with about three times more water, pa‘i ‘ai becomes poi. But unlike poi, this labor-intensive treat can’t be machine-made. It has to be hand-pounded.

To eat pa‘i ‘ai is to savor a labor of love. Before you can make this Hawaiian specialty, you must first build a kalo lo‘i (taro patch) with sturdy rock walls and fresh stream water flowing through. Then you plant rows of huli (taro starts) in the soft mud. As the shoots grow, you have to protect them from pests: diseases, snails, grazing animals. Nine months later, you can wade into your patch of heart-shaped leaves to yank the fist-sized roots free from the mud. You wash and steam them, and then the fun begins: pounding.

If Anthony is any indication, we should all be eating more taro. His enthusiasm and energy seemed boundless as he methodically mashed the roots he grew into delicious appetizers. His farm, Mana ‘ai, is one of the few in the state that consistently produces pa‘i ‘ai. His family helped legalize the commercial production of this traditional food.

Anthony serves as a mentor to the student filmmakers producing “I am Haloa.” In addition, the young women have apprenticed under top Hawaii chefs to create novel recipes that spotlight taro. Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Café is the film’s culinary advisor. She flew over from O‘ahu to cook for the benefit dinner, alongside culinary whizzes Isaac Bancaco, James Simpliciano, John Cadman and Derek Watanabe.

I am Haloa Dinner at www.ediblehi.com

Bancaco is a Maui chef currently on a meteoric rise in the culinary universe. He served bite-sized versions of popular dishes from his restaurant, Ka‘ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui: octopus, smoked meat and Surfing Goat Dairy cheese atop a pa‘i ‘ai crostini; and a sliver of Kona kampachi poisson cru with Hawaiian chili and liliko‘i (passion fruit) suero.

Derek Watanabe, the executive chef at Travaasa Hana, prepared beautiful greens from nearby Mahele Farm, tossed in Kipahulu poi dressing. Wong worked her magic for the main course, using all island-grown ingredients: Maui Cattle Company rib eye with spring vegetables and scrumptious morsels of roasted garlic pa‘i ‘ai. Bright orange nasturtium flowers accented her dish, served on large monkeywood platters.

For dessert, John Cadman presented his signature Pono Pies—nutritious indulgences made with breadfruit grown on site. Each sweet slice incorporated a cornucopia of canoe plants: taro, breadfruit, and haupia (coconut cream), garnished with chunks of purple sweet potato and macadamia nuts. The guilt-free treat was so tasty that people joked about sneaking bites from each other’s plates—though by then everyone’s belly was comfortably full.

The event was a sell-out success, with all proceeds going directly to the “I am Haloa” campaign. Eighty-plus people gathered around the table to share a truly memorable meal, thanks to the many hands that volunteered to help make it happen. The following day, Hana residents shared their treasures with the greater community at the annual Taro Festival. Booths featured handcrafted kapa (barkcloth), homegrown plants, kupe‘e (nerite shell) necklaces, poi mochi and heaping plate lunches. Musicians and hula dancers performed with great heart and sincerity. People from near and far relaxed on the grass, enjoying the entertainment, food and company.

Whenever we sit down together to eat, we’re bound by invisible but profound ties. The lessons we learn during family-style meals can inform us how to manage our natural resources. The ‘āina, the land that sustains us, is ours to share. And according to Hawaiian belief, the natural elements aren’t “resources” at all, but beloved family members.

Setting The Table With Maui Culinary Academy Students

Story by Sara Tekula

Photos by Mieko Hoffman

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.

Noble Chef at www.ediblehi.com

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.”

Noble chef at www.ediblehi.com

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.

Noble Chef at www.ediblehi.com

Taking A Peek Into The Lives Of Modern Day Farmers

Story and photos by Britt Yap
In the business of growing food, four Hawai’i farmers tell us soil and toil is just the start.

For centuries, farmers have been thought of as people who work long hours outdoors each day tending to their field crops, poultry or livestock. Yet, the reality of a modern day farmer is much different.
Successful, 21st century farming requires knowledge not only of the latest techniques for raising crops and farm animals, but also of how to operate a successful business. Farmers are now being stretched to embrace creative business models that include diverse product sales, social media, branding, marketing, teaching, and agri-tourism.
Edible takes at look at four different farms to get a better understanding (and respect) for the workload of a modern day farmer. Sustainability, diversity, and niche markets are common themes among these farms. Another is the push to create and sell value-added products. (Hey, if life gives you a surplus of tomatoes, take it to market as marinara.)

Surfing Goat Dairy

In upcountry Maui, Thomas Kafsack and his wife Eva run a very successful goat dairy farm. In fact, it’s the only one on the island and one of two in Hawai‘i. The couple moved to Maui from Germany 15 years ago with the intention of creating a much smaller farm. Because of demand over the years, they now have 22 employees and the farm generated $1.25 million in revenue last year.

 

“We are growing every year and we are by far the biggest goat dairy in the state,” says Thomas Kafsack. “We are producing to our limits. There are even hotels on the wait list for our products.”
Surfing Goat Dairy produces 30 different gourmet goat cheeses, truffles, soaps, and gift baskets. Two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from retail product sales and farm tours. The other third comes from sales to wholesale accounts: hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Kafsack says that the major hotels on Maui and in Honolulu continually source Surfing Goat Dairy. Most recently, the MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas placed orders for Kafsack’s truffles and gourmet cheeses to use as amenities.

 

“We sold 70,000 truffles last year. People are hooked after they try them,” laughs Kafsack. The flavor is so much better, he explains, because regular truffles contain a lot of heavy cream and butter. The Kafsacks use goat cheese instead, which carries the flavor much better.

 

The Kafsacks have really found their niche. Not only that, they’ve figured out a way to capitalize on Maui’s agri-tourism industry by offering daily farm tours. Tourists and locals alike visit the Kula dairy farm and pay $7-$25 depending on the tour they choose. At the end of each tour, guests are offered samples of some of the truffles and cheeses. The majority of the time this leads to a purchase. The YELP reviews for Surfing Goat Dairy—which have awarded the company an impressive four stars—say that guests cannot resist making a purchase after sampling the products.

 

Some of the challenges the company faces are drought and shipping costs. “If you buy a 50-pound hay bale in Washington, you’re paying around $5. We are paying $33.75,” says Kafsack.
Meanwhile, the Surfing Goat Dairy website has been a huge asset. Most of the sales are made online and the Kafsacks ship to all parts of the world. They have turned to social media to help get the word out about their tours and products. “In one day, we had 90,000 clicks on our Facebook page,” he says.

Hawaiian Fresh Farms

Hawaiian Fresh Farms faces a similar challenge to Surfing Goat Dairy with keeping up with the demand for their products. The small farm in Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu is owned and operated by Tristan Reynolds and several employees that he likes to refer to as “agripreneurs.” He employs a group of young, motivated individuals who want to learn the business and one day start their own company.
“Diversity and niche marketing is the key to being a successful modern day farmer,” says Reynolds.

 

The farm grows organic produce, similar to a chef’s garden concept, producing the 15 most-used vegetables and herbs. Reynolds says he sells primarily to local chefs who use the produce in their restaurants.
With the sustainable mindset, Reynolds has come up with several value-added products, such as his tomato-basil goat cheese pie, which he sells at farmers’ markets and out of his company’s food truck. That’s right, food truck. Some items sold from the truck are fish and chips, grilled goat-cheese sandwiches, local grass-fed beef burgers, and the farm’s trademark dish—the loco moco ball. It’s essentially a grass-fed burger wrapped around a hard boiled egg, coated in rice, dusted in panko and deep fried.

 

The food truck can be booked to cater special events (with options for different menus) and can be found around town at HNL Market, Eat the Street, Spartan Race at Kualoa, Pinch of Salt, and the First Responders Fair.

Nalo Farms

Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms says his focus this year is creating more value-added products. Restaurant orders and produce sales at farmers’ markets have been his main income.
“We cannot survive on restaurants and supermarkets alone. We have to focus on value-added products moving forward,” he says. For instance, he intends to develop some pesto with fresh herbs that Safeway might be interested in carrying. “Also we have three dressings that are ready to go on the market.”

 

The Waimanlo farm has been extremely successful at branding its Nalo Greens. Most foodies have seen “Nalo Greens” on restaurant menus across the state, thanks in large part to Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Restaurants.

 

Today, Nalo Farms supplies approximately 130 restaurants with over 3,000 pounds of greens every week. If restaurant owners print “Nalo Greens” on their menu, they get a discount on the produce. Okimoto also sells his signature greens, fresh herbs, and micro-greens at weekly farmers markets.

 

One of Okimoto’s concerns as a farmer is the survival of neighbor island agriculture. “The costs are so high to transport produce inter-island. Fuel costs and keeping the produce at the right temperature during transport are obstacles for neighbor island farmers. It becomes so uncompetitive for them. The Superferry helped with that at one time, but now that’s not an option.”
This year, Okimoto has plans to expand to 100 beehives. Not only does he want to produce and sell honey, but also cosmetics such as hand lotion and sun tan oil.

 

 

Ma‘o Organic Farms

The 24-acre organic farm in Wai‘anae has one of the most unique business models to date.

 

“Our workforce is not paid by the farm; it’s an internship program. The 35 interns receive an education instead. It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Ma‘o Organic Farms’ manager Cheryse Sana.
How it works: students get their associates degree at Leeward Community College paid for in exchange for working on the farm. The interns work 20 hours per week over the course of 3-4 days. They are also given a monthly education stipend.

 

“We want young adults who can do the work while at the same time learning life lessons on how to survive and thrive in society. A lot of them leave the program wanting to become teachers in the community,” says Sana. “Farms all over the country are asking us how we do this and make this program happen.”

 

The farm grosses about $4 million a year, says Sana. One-third is from produce they sell to grocery stores and restaurants, one-third is from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, and the last third is income they make at weekly farmers’ markets and other events.

 

Ma‘o Organic Farms charges $32 for a CSA box that contains salad greens, cooking greens, herbs, and sometimes fruit. It just depends on what the farm is growing that month. People can either choose to purchase on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. The farm currently has more than 150 subscribers. Nalo Farms and Hawaiian Fresh Farms have plans to start selling CSA boxes this year.

 

 

Sana says that in the future, Ma‘o Organic Farms would like to expand their operations to the North Shore. They hope to one day be able to offer upwards of 250 internships for students to work on their farms.

 

 

Time to Grow

For the modern day farmer, it’s more than just growing food or a business; it’s also about growing relationships and the next generation of farmers. The folks we interviewed all agree that nowadays farmer also means teacher. They have willingly taken on the responsibility to teach the next generation how to perpetuate ancient farming practices, while being sustainable and futuristic thinking.

 

“There is a lot of income potential for farms, especially right now because the market is shifting toward healthier life choices,” says Reynolds. Increasingly, people care more about what they eat, where their food comes from, and supporting local businesses. Many are also investing time and money into creating their own backyard garden with fresh fruit, vegetables, and cooking herbs, he adds.

 

Reynolds currently teaches monthly gardening classes to the public in Hale‘iwa and hopes to offer classes in Honolulu where most of the island’s population resides.
“We want to create the kind of culture of where we have less reliance on foreign products and more sustainable options for people in Hawai‘i,” he says. “We show people that growing their own food is not as difficult as they think and the rewards are great. The goal is to have people be part of the solution.”

Food Entrepreneurs

Growing Business
Three island food entrepreneurs share their recipes for success.

By Heidi Pool

Ono PopsJosh Lanthier-Welch can recite every ingredient in every flavor of popsicle he’s ever created. As chief operating officer and executive chef of OnoPops, headquartered in Hawai‘i Kai, Josh has progressed from pouring his fruity concoctions into molds and freezing them at home, to producing up to 2,700 frozen delights per day using sous vide machines, blast chillers, and a state-of-the-art Carpigiani batch freezer.

It began in the fall of 2009 with a call from Josh’s brother Joe, OnoPops’ chief financial officer and director of sales. “Joe called from a gourmet popsicle shop on the east coast,” Josh recalls. “He left me a rambling message about how he was eating a basil-blueberry popsicle and couldn’t believe how good it was. He said we had to do this in Honolulu.” Josh was working as a chef in San Francisco at the time. “My first response was, ‘There’s no way I’m moving back to Honolulu to open a popsicle company.’”
But Joe persisted, and when the restaurant Josh had been working in closed due to the recession, and their parents’ ‘ohana unit became available, “I had no more right of refusal,” laughs Josh. “It all added up just like that.”
In April of 2010, the two Punahou School graduates launched OnoPops with eight initial flavors, all made with local ingredients. Within six months, consumers could purchase OnoPops at Whole Foods and Foodland. In September of 2013, OnoPops was named Whole Foods’ Partner of the Year. “We were struggling to break even, and at a point where we were wondering whether or not we should keep going,” says Josh. “This recognition from Whole Foods gave us a new wave of optimism. They offered us an opportunity to participate in their small producer loan program, and with this kind of partnership we can keep going.”
This spring, OnoPops expanded to the U.S. Mainland in 35 Whole Foods stores, and the Welch brothers have dreams of franchising their brand. “The heart of OnoPops will always be our three core ingredients—Waialua Estate chocolate, Kona coffee, and Mauna Kea green tea—no matter where in the world OnoPops are made,” says Josh. But the rest of the ingredients will always be sourced locally.”
Josh opens up a chest freezer, the vapor dissipates to reveal OnoPops in every color of the rainbow. “We have a repertoire of 75 flavors, with 25 to 35 on hand at any one time,” he says. “I’m always thinking ahead about new flavors. Josh and I do an eight-popsicle tasting and the hands-down winner, at least in my book, is the Mexican Chocolate. It’s definitely not the Fudgsicle I grew up eating. Creamy, rich milk chocolate is infused with a touch of local cinnamon, vanilla, and mild organic ancho chile powder. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Josh attributes the success of OnoPops to dogged hard work. “I spend about fifty hours a week making popsicles, and between five and fifteen selling them and doing product demos,” he says. “I’ve sacrificed being anyone other than the ‘popsicle guy.’ But I’m not complaining one bit.”

***

034 Sean M. Hower(c)2014
Dressed in sneakers, denim jeans, and a long-sleeved plaid shirt, Azeem Butt could pass for a Silicon Valley engineer. This is no coincidence. Prior to founding Life Foods, Inc., in January of 2013, Azeem was involved in several technology and telecommunications start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area. “But food has always been my passion,” he says.
Headquartered in Wailuku, Maui, Life Foods manufactures a line of 12 products: patties, condiments, dressings, hot sauces, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and gomasio—all of which are superfoods-based, 100 percent organic, non-GMO, vegan, and soy and gluten free. “Our goal was to have a strong presence on Maui and Moloka‘i, which we accomplished last year,” Azeem says. “This year, we’ve expanded to O‘ahu, and we’ll add more products to our line.”
The first three months in business, Azeem didn’t sell a single product. Instead, he tested his goods at farmers’ markets. “We did more than 7,000 tastings, and handed out surveys to obtain feedback,” he says. “Our chefs continuously made refinements based on the comments we received. By the end of March, people were asking, ‘Where can I buy these patties?’ and, ‘I love this ketchup. Where do you sell it?’ When we placed our products at Alive and Well, Down to Earth, and Mana Foods, we already had customers waiting to purchase them.”
Azeem acquires as many ingredients locally as possible, to support what he calls Life Foods’ farm-to-shelf approach. “Our goal is what I call the ‘green circle,’ where we source within 300 miles, and produce from our facility to the shelf within three weeks,” he says. “We’re not quite there yet, because some of our dry goods, plus mung beans, come from the Mainland. There’s currently no local source for these ingredients.”
Life Foods grew from Azeem’s desire to provide healthy vegetarian food options for himself and others. “A lot of good product ideas come from a personal passion for something,” he says. “You can’t just pick what you think is a random need in the marketplace—it should be your own need. Otherwise, you won’t have a connection to it. I actually have people come up to me at farmers’ markets, shake my hand, and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ That never happened to me before, and I think it’s because Life Foods products fulfill my food needs, and theirs as well.”
Azeem’s mission was validated at last year’s Body and Soil Farm-Health Conference, held annually on Maui. “We were one of many vendors selling food,” he recalls. “Right next to us was a company barbecuing locally grown beef patties. The aroma was extremely enticing, and I was sure we’d have a lot of our food left over. Amazingly, six out of ten guests chose our patty over the ones made from beef. It was my most satisfying moment yet.”
Azeem has plans to take Life Foods to the national stage. “I want to establish kitchens that create farm-to-shelf products in all areas of the country,” he says. “The model we’ve created here on Maui can be replicated all around the United States.”

*****

003 Sean M. Hower(c)2014 D80_7285-3000

In 2005, Garrett Marrero, along with wife Melanie, founded Maui Brewing Co.’s  Kahana brewpub, where they produced 300 barrels of handcrafted ales and lagers their first year in business. Two years later, they opened a production facility in Lahaina, where they currently brew more than 20,000 barrels per year. This year, they’ll open a larger production facility, brewpub, and tasting room in the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei, where they’ll be able to double production.
When I meet up with Garrett at his construction site in Kihei, he’s sporting steel-toed work boots, faded jeans, and a bright orange Maui Brewing Co. t-shirt. He tells me he’s always ready to fill in if needed to keep the $17 million construction project on schedule. “One day, my contractor didn’t have a welder to finish a critical job,” he recalls. “So I got in the ditch at nine o’clock that night and shone my truck’s headlights so I could see what I was doing. These guys had never before seen a company owner go out and buy boots and jeans, and pull tools out of his truck.”
Garrett believes his hands-on approach is one of the keys to his success. “In the beginning, Melanie and I did everything on a shoestring budget and wore a lot of hats,” he says. “But this made us very skilled at what we do, and we are intimately familiar with every aspect of our business. It strengthens our team when employees see that we’re willing to do whatever’s required to get the job done.”
Equally as strong as his work ethic is Garrett’s commitment to the Maui community. “Using the best local ingredients available to us is something we do as a matter of course,” he says. “We incorporate local guava, mango, papaya, and even breadfruit in our beers. Our breadfruit beer is still the most requested brew, even though we only made it once because it was such a challenge to produce. Sourcing 3,000 pounds of fruit in just the right stage of ripeness, plus ten pounds of toasted papaya seeds, made it a labor of love.”
Maui Brewing Co.’s symbiotic relationship with local farmers should be a model for all businesses. “We purchase produce from farmers who use our spent grain to feed their cows, then we serve their beef in our restaurants,” Garrett says. Breads and buns served in the brewpub are also made locally with spent grain. “If something can be produced for our restaurants on island, it is. We even make our own ketchup, salad dressings, and mustard.”
Garrett’s beers are distributed in 11 states and four foreign countries. “It’s gratifying to go to a restaurant somewhere in Virginia and see Maui Brewing Co. on the menu,” he says. “It conjures up a ‘we did that’ kind of pride.” Garrett says his best-selling brew in Hawai‘i is Bikini Blonde Lager. It’s easy to see why. With light carbonation and crisp, fruity notes, this filtered Munich Helles Lager brewed with floral hops and Pilsner and Munich malts is appealing to even a non-beer-drinker such as myself. Cheers!

Growing Future Farmers: Localicious Hawai‘i

Story by Heidi Pool
Photos by Steve Brinkman

How a Maui group set out to grow future farmers one salad at a time, and wound up inspiring a “localicious” movement across the State.

It all started with a salad. And the potential impact of a humble dollar. Literally.

In the fall of 2011, members of Maui County Farm Bureau’s “Grown on Maui” committee were pondering the fact that a typical principal farm operator in Hawai‘i is around 60 years old. “We realized we needed to do something to foster up-and-coming farmers,” says committee member Charlene Ka‘uhane. “Maui County’s Office of Economic Development is a strong supporter of our programs, but we’d maxed out on our existing funding, and realized we needed to explore other avenues.”

Fresh Local Salad Grown in Hawaii

From this conversation, the Farm Bureau’s “Localicious, Dine Out Maui” promotion was born. Participating restaurants create a salad made with locally grown ingredients and designate these items with the Grown on Maui logo. For every salad sold, a dollar is donated to the Bureau’s Growing Future Farmers fund, administered by the Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation. Since its inception, the campaign has raised an impressive $13,000. “That’s a lot of salads,” Charlene chuckles.

Proceeds from Localicious, Dine Out Maui are distributed in the form of grants and scholarships for new farmers and ranchers to start or enhance agricultural businesses in Maui County. “Scholarship recipients are graduates of the University of Hawai‘i Maui College’s agricultural program who wish to complete four-year studies at UH Hilo or Oregon State University,” Charlene reports.

Existing farmers may apply for grants to expand their businesses. “Smaller farmers need just a little help, not a huge amount of money,” says committee member Chef Chris Schobel, formerly of Hula Grill. “Who knows, a scholarship or grant recipient could be the person who comes up with something really significant, all because we’re selling salads.”

But growing future farmers isn’t just about raising money. The Grown on Maui Committee has hosted several meetings with chefs and farmers so each can understand the other’s needs. “When we first began our meetings, we really didn’t know each other,” says committee member Eric Faivre, executive chef at the Grand Wailea. “They didn’t know what we needed, and we didn’t know what they grew. So we made lists of ten items we always use, like Romaine lettuce, and ten specialty items we’d like to have, like baby carrots and artichokes.”

Growing Future Farmers“Sourcing ingredients is harder than it looks,” says Tylun Pang, committee member and executive chef at the Fairmont Kea Lani’s Ko Restaurant. “This program has opened up some amazing doors. It’s given me a greater respect for what our farmers deal with every day. We now have a relationship, and it’s no longer about buying veggies in a box.”

Committee chairman Darren Strand, president of Maui Gold Pineapple Company, also applauds the collaboration. “The farmers said, ‘I wish I could sell more,’ and the chefs said, ‘I wish I could buy more.’ This program helps farmers sell more products, identifies restaurants willing to support ag, and creates a funding source to educate the next generation of farmers.”

Chef Schobel adds another campaign benefit, the opportunity for restaurant servers and guests to interact about the importance of the island’s ag industry: “Guests feel positive about eating something delicious that’s grown on Maui and making a donation for a worthy cause.”

Committee member Scott McGill, executive chef of TS Restaurants group, which owns Hula Grill and Duke’s Beach House, specifically trains his staff members on the program. “We take them on farm visits, and we’ve had Dave Horsman from Ho‘opono Farms come into our restaurants to meet everyone,” he says. “I’m excited about the program, which makes our staff excited, which makes our guests excited.”

The Chefs behind Localicious

Localicious Hawai‘i

During the month of March, the Localicious campaign expands to encompass all Hawaiian Islands, not just Maui. “When we discovered how successful the Maui County Farm Bureau’s Localicious program has been, we saw an opportunity to create a statewide initiative,” says Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi, executive director of the Hawai‘i Ag Foundation.

Restaurants participating in Localicious Hawai‘i have designated an item on their menu (not necessarily a salad) that’s made with locally grown, caught or raised products, and a portion of the proceeds goes towards statewide ag education. Localicious Hawai‘i is chaired by renowned chef Alan Wong, who has restaurants on both O‘ahu and Maui.

“Restaurants raising at least $500 during the month of March can adopt a local school where the Foundation’s Ag in the Classroom program will be implemented,” says Denise. “The Foundation will partner with public school teachers to introduce an innovative national agricultural program in the classroom beginning in fall 2014. Our goal for this year’s Localicious Hawai‘i campaign is 60 participating restaurants generating $50,000 in donations, and we plan to make it an annual event.”

And it all began with a simple salad

Growing Future Farmers - Salad

“Growing future farmers is critical to the perpetuation of Hawai‘i’s agricultural industry,” says Charlene Ka‘uhane, “and ag education is fundamental to ensuring its continued viability. We want our keiki to know where their food comes from, understand ag’s importance in our communities, and see farming as a genuine career opportunity.”

“Localicious is a perfect example of how giving now pays off in the future,” says Chef Schobel.

To find out which Hawai‘i restaurants are participating in the Localicious Hawai‘i campaign during the month of March, visit www.localicioushawaii.com.