Tag: Chefs

A Passion For Food Sustainability


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.”

Culinary Ink: Ed Kenney

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.”


Praise The Lard

By Jon Letman

Hawai‘i’s chefs turn back the clock

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.”