Tag: Feature

Hydroponics and Aquaponics

Written by Catherine E. Toth
Photography by Patrick Kelley

You wouldn’t expect lettuce growing on a tennis court.

But that’s exactly what you’d find at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa in Po‘ipu–.

The hotel converted one of its 4,000-square-foot tennis courts into a greenhouse, growing several varieties of lettuce such as green and red oak leaf and Lollo Rossa that will be used by the restaurants on-site. It expects to produce 100 pounds of greens a week, with plans to grow different crops, including tomatoes and herbs, by the end of the year.

And while many hotels boast flourishing gardens, even edible ones, this one is different: everything here is grown hydroponically, without soil and using nutrients added to the water to grow the plants. This method, when done right, is more efficient in terms of water and land use while minimizing the need for pesticides.

hydro02The restaurants here benefit, too, with fresh produce grown steps away from their kitchens.

“Sustainability is important on many levels and for many different reasons,” says Matt Smith, executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa. “Most often overlooked is the idea of being sustainable from a financial standpoint. For obvious reasons, growing our own lettuces supports a healthier (profit and loss) statement … And when looking at the hydroponic farm from an environmental perspective, it’s easy to see how much it can help us lower our impact on the environment. I often like to refer to the way our grandparents ate and produced food. They only ate what was in season and typically within a 100-mile radius. This had a tremendous amount of benefit on the local economy, the environment and the health of the people in the community.”

Hydroponics and aquaponics — a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, where fish effluent water is used to grow the vegetables — are both soil-less systems. Despite the actual technology being thousands of years old, these systems are quickly gaining in popularity with both backyard and commercial farmers. Growers can grow more plants in these systems, getting higher yields per square foot. This is an attractive benefit for  farmers without much land or growing in areas with poor soil quality. Placing these systems in controlled environments, you can grow crops all year long.

“The cleanliness, ease of operation, consistency of product and current demand from consumers for high-quality produce are reasons why these two methods are so popular,” says Jensen Uyeda, a junior extension agent for the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, who helped build the hydroponic greenhouse at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa.

“I think there is a larger push from the college and industry to educate the public about these growing systems,” Uyeda adds. “The education provides potential growers the ability to make informed decisions as to what type of systems to construct and how to operate them.”

It especially makes sense in Hawai‘i, experts say. The islands are geographically isolated and dependent on imports. (The state imports about 85 percent of its food.) Natural resources are limited. Cost to do business here is high.

So it’s no surprise that farms here are trying hydroponic and aquaponic systems — some exclusively — to grow their vegetables.

Waipoli Hydroponic Greens in Upcountry Maui grows about 180,000 plants year-round in hydroponic greenhouses, producing up to 15,000 pounds of specialty lettuces a week. Kawamata Farms in Waimea on the Big Island churns out more than 20,000 high-quality, hydroponically grown tomatoes every week.

Kunia Country Farms, focused on growing greens using aquaponics, started five years ago on a two-acre plot in Kunia just a few miles from Wahiawa– on O‘ahu’s central plains.

Today, the farm produces about 5,000 pounds of lettuce a week, growing three different head lettuce varieties and 10 salad types. Its healthy leafy greens are being fed the nutrient-rich effluent  from thousands of tilapia growing in nearby tanks in a farming method that’s both sustainable and responsible. The plan is to add more grow beds and ramp up production in the next few years.

To Jason Brand, of Kunia Country Farms it’s important to run a financially successful farm in a sustainable way. Meaning, generate revenue without taxing the environment. He feels that aquaponics is the way to go.

The farm uses far less water than traditional soil-based farms and no fertilizers, as the fish waste provides the adequate nutrients for the plants. And soon, it will install solar panels to sustainably meet its electricity needs.

hydro03“Our goal was to reduce the cost of food and solve our food dependence,” says Brand, who started the farm with Cary Takenaka and Scott Wo. “That’s how we got into aquaponics … It’s a sustainable way to help reduce Hawai‘i’s food dependence on the Mainland and imports. And the farm helps to grow employment in rural O‘ahu.”

Sustainability was the draw for Monica Bogar, who runs Napili Flo Farm in Napili, north of La–haina– in West Maui. She grows mostly baby greens — 20 different types depending on the year — watercress and edible flowers in closed-loop aquaponic systems for Maui chefs like Sheldon Simeon, Isaac Bancaco and Jojo Vasquez. Right now, she’s got pea shoots, purple radish, red miso, cilantro, dark opal basil and salad mix growing in her greenhouse.

She liked the fact that she could recycle the water, ditch the fertilizers and pesticides, and grow her own vegetables and protein in aquaponics.

“I’m about utilizing everything more than once and not wasting,” says the 37-year-old mother of two. “Wasting is a huge thing for me. We should be giving back to the earth more than we take.”

Lee Bryant of Mays Wonder Gardens in Hale‘iwa says he uses, on average, 90 percent less water than traditional dirt farming on his 30-acre hydroponic farm, one of the largest in the state. And since his farm is located about 1,000 feet above the North Shore, he says he has very little issues with pests. In fact, he’s gone three months without spraying anything. And when he does use pesticide, he uses only lightweight, certified organic sprays.

“If I had to spray with restricted-use pesticides,” he says, “I wouldn’t continue the business. I’d go and do something else.”

But these systems are not without their own challenges.

According to Uyeda, there are water and electrical costs associated with both hydroponics and aquaponics. Nutrients aren’t cheap and fish require protein-rich feed that can be pricey, too. Commercial farmers have the typical challenges of land costs,competition with cheaper imports and production consistency.

But that shouldn’t — and likely won’t — stop farmers from exploring soil-less options.

“These systems should be used as another contributor to Hawai‘i’s food security, but we still need to maintain our large conventional and organic farming systems, which currently provide the bulk of our food supply,” Uyeda says. “In terms of lettuce production and leafy green production, (soil-less farming) may be the best system. I think that there may be more producers in the future that will utilize suboptimal lands for food production with these systems as the land costs are usually lower than prime ag lands.”

Bryant says the initial startup cost for a hydroponic farm the size of his — he harvests up to 10,000 heads of lettuce a day, five days a week on 10 acres of land — is very high compared  to a traditional soil-based farm. And since he has no power at his farm, he has to run five 15,000-watt generators around the  clock.

But alternative energy has eased that cost. He’s already installed solar and wind on the farm, which has dropped his energy consumption by 35 percent.

For Dan Ching, who runs Ili‘ili Farms on two acres of land in Lualualei Valley in Wai‘anae on O‘ahu, the benefits of growing his vegetables in aquaponic systems far outweigh the challenges.

“Aquaponics uses less land, less water, less fertilizer and less labor than soil farming,” says the 66-year-old retired structural engineer. “And it’s a faster turnaround.”

A few years ago, Ching started his farm with his wife, Mei, to stay healthy and keep busy after retirement. Today, the farm produces Mānoa lettuce, Shaghai bok choy, watercress, green onions and cilantro sold at Whole Foods, Foodland and Down To Earth. Solar panels keep his electrical costs to a minimum. And since he’s using fish effluent to grow his plants, he’s able to get his produce USDA organic-certified. (Hydroponic produce can’t get that designation because you have to add chemical nutrients to the water.)

And though he touts the benefits of aquaponics, Ching doesn’t see this method as entirely replacing soil-based farming.

“I think aquaponics is best kept small, on an acre or more, and spread throughout communities,” he says. “Backyard and community aquaponics are good. Commercial aquaponic (operations) need a lot of capital to startup. It’s not for everyone.”

Fred Lau, owner of the 18-acre Mari’s Gardens in Mililani on O‘ahu, one of the largest hydroponic and aquaponic farms in the state, took on the challenge of running a large-scale commercial operation. He sees these soil-less methods as the future of farming in Hawai‘i and around the world.

hydro04“Traditional farming can’t stay the same,” he says. “We’re way more intensive than what (traditional farmers) can do because of these systems. There’s no weeds, no need for tilling, no need for fertilizer, and there’s no downtime in growing. We actually get substantially more cycles than a dirt farmer.”

Across a few acres in Mililani, Lau grows dozens of rows of Mānoa lettuce, flourishing in grow beds of black cinder. Nearby are tanks and troughs of thousands of tilapia and Chinese catfish.

He also grows other varieties of lettuce, heirloom carrots, kale, beets, radishes, green onions, watercress, ong choy, arugula and Okinawan spinach. And in greenhouses are cherry tomatoes and Japanese cucumbers. His produce is sold at Whole Foods, Down To Earth, Kokua Market, various farmer’s markets and in CSA boxes. They can also be found on the menus of Poke Stop, Honolulu Burger Co., and at the restaurants at the Halekulani Hotel.

What Lau is doing at Mari’s Gardens has inspired other farmers — including Ching — to consider soil-less methods of growing food.

David Morgan, director of agricultural operations at Kualoa Ranch in windward O‘ahu, visited the Mililani farm recently and is toying with ideas to set up an aquaponics system at the ranch. Right now, Kualoa has an aquaculture program, growing tilapia, oysters and shrimp. Growing vegetables using the effluent water makes sense to him.

“I think now people are starting to figure out how to control things a little better so you can optimize growth on both ends of that production cycle,” he says. “My interest in aquaponics has definitely been rising lately.”


Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil. Plants are grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only, or in an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel.

Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic environment. The waste from the aquatic animals — fish, crayfish, prawns — are used to provide nutrients to the plants. The byproducts are broken down by nitrogen- fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then re-circulated back to the aquaculture system.

Local Flavor: An Interview with Jack Johnson

Written by Kelly McHugh
Photography by Cedric Angeles and K. Johnson

“Let’s reframe the tourist industry: if you really want to experience Hawai‘i, taste Hawai‘i.” —Jack Johnson

jack02With two hands in his backyard garden, trimmings in a pile and happy as a clam, Jack Johnson begins his two-month hiatus from touring the globe as a musician (a promise he made to his wife, Kim), doing exactly what he plans to do: cultivating edibles while spending some QT at home with his family.

In every sense of the word, Jack Johnson is cool. Born and raised on the North Shore of O‘ahu to modern surf legend Jeff Johnson, he became the youngest invitee to make the surfing finals at the Pipeline Masters at 17. Within a week of the contest, he was recovering from a near fatal accident in the water and swiftly developed a passion for guitar. He and his then-girlfriend, Kim, wrote songs in his UC Santa Barbara college dorm room as he earned a degree in film and she, in education. Jack credits Kim with nearly every achievement, from managing tours and selling more than 15 million albums worldwide to topping the national U.S. Billboard charts three times to co-founding and running the couple’s nonprofit Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation – which aims to help protect the environment and educate the next generation of stewards of their island home, Hawai‘i.

But we’re not here to talk about the surfing, filmmaking, Grammy nomi nated musician Jack Johnson; we’re here to talk about food.

Where did the passion stem from to create Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation? Why does it matter?

If I go back, everything I do has stemmed from a partnership with my wife Kim since we were 18 and met in college. We were always together at that point, and anything one of us was working on, whether it be homework or trying to write a song, the other was giving input. A couple of years into the music career, when Kim had taken over as my tour manager, we saw that we had the potential to draw a lot of people together to raise money and awareness about an important cause. Inspired by friends like Neil Young doing the Bridge School benefit concerts, we thought “what else can we do to help?” We combined our background and interests – she as a teacher and me as a former camp counselor – and created the foundation with our friends. We support farmers markets, give healthy snacks in the schools that are locally grown, run farm visits and teach kids that by eating food that is sourced nearby that is so fresh and so good, you can do something good for yourself and do something good for the environment. It really just came from being inspired to help Hawai‘i. You look at the statistics and think that if you can start at a really young age and help them learn about what’s good for them – and make it fun – they will grow up seeing this as a positive experience.

jack03Tell me about a memorable moment for you while building this program. How do you know when it’s working?

Yesterday I was teaching a garden lesson – “the scientific garden” at my kid’s school. The class was separated into four groups, each with their own gardening plot and soil composition (e.g. regular soil, mulch, precast), all planted with green beans. It was the last day of the lesson and we were comparing and contrasting results and the kids were just having so much fun, laughing as they were discovering the differences. These days, the negative about the future of our planet is poured on – we really want to take a positive, fun approach- then as they grow older it’s something they want to return to.

So by making it fun, you’re making it memorable?

As soon as they have fun you know they’ll start learning. I remember one of the first times in the schools when we were developing a curriculum for nutrition and garden-based learning, using native and canoe plants. When we first started doing the lessons, the kids were digging for bugs. One kid found a huge centipede, which threw the whole direction off but then gave me a great chance to improvise, because now I’m talking about worms, centipedes, decomposers and how they all work together in the garden. Everyone’s squealing “ewwwww!” – but they’re having fun. These are the great, real learning experiences.

What is the future of food sustainability in Hawai‘i? How do we compare with some your worldwide tour communities?

We used to bring one person along with us on tour as the head of our catering, while most bands bring out a full staff with pre-planned meals. Our person would be in charge of the local catering. Everything would have to be sourced within a certain distance of where the venue was, so they would find the local farmers market and create a menu. We don’t have to do that anymore because every town we go to has a great group already doing this work; caterers sourcing locally from farmers markets. Awareness of local farmers has really grown over the years.

The tricky part for Hawai‘i (in terms of the future of food sustainability) is tourism. It is a powerful industry. So many people want to visit and a lot of land that should have food grown on it is under pressure to be rezoned and developed. Something I always try to say when I’m asked by local tourist magazines about how visitors can be more environmentally friendly is to support local farmers! If you are stocking up your fridge, store up at farmers markets. A lot of tourists just don’t realize that we import everything. Let’s reframe the tourist industry: if you really want to experience Hawai‘i, taste Hawai‘i.

jack04If we separated processed foods from fresh, locally grown foods – do you think we would still consume 85 percent imported?

No, I don’t think so; I see such a growing number of people interested in supporting farmers markets, and I see those farmers markets popping up more and more.

 What would you like to see for Hawai‘i?

Best case scenario: more people are growing food on their own property – and it doesn’t even have to be about the number of plants or acres, just that it’s happening in more households; that more people are opening their minds to the fact that it can be here. More farmers markets, direct to consumer. More food being grown.

How can the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation help make that happen?

As the kids in our school programs get into high school, they start to take action – the greatest action you can take- by making environmentally conscious decisions about their food choices. Our friend Ed Kenney, who is on our board, brought the idea to our attention to work together with kids at different stages of their development. He works with MA‘O (an acronym for “Mala ‘Ai ‘Opio,” which means “the youth garden”), using the produce in dishes at his restaurant (Town) and supporting their fundraisers. Together, we’re getting more locally grown food in Hawai‘i, impacting health, economy and environment, and getting more farmers on land that might otherwise be lost to development.

jack05And as for you, where do you take the family to eat on a night out?

Last night we ate matzah ball soup – some Jewish friends had us over and we learned about Hanukkah. On special occasions we love to eat at Town or at Kalapawai Caf. & Deli in Kailua, for my sister. There is so much good food there, risotto, desserts, root dishes, beets; everything is locally grown. We love taking the kids to Luibuenos for Mexican food. For a long time I had my kids convinced that the picture of Elvis on the wall was Luibueno and he was going to come out and sing songs about his burritos.

How do you plan to spend your first break in two years?

Except for a board meeting that I have in a few minutes, I’ll just be surfing, spending time with the family and catching up on gardening. Because of the last 15 years of my music career, my garden always goes to weeds while I’m away and I just want to focus on my garden. I want to see this thing come to fruition.

For the Love of Chocolate

Written by Shannon Wianecki
Photography by Elena Rego

chocolate02For thousands of years people have cherished the fruit of the cacao tree: the source of chocolate. Ancient Mesoamericans believed that cacao possessed divine properties and incorporated it into their sacred rituals, feasts, medicines and monetary systems. The species’ Latin name, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” Who can argue with that? Today, lovers worldwide exchange chocolate as edible tokens of their passion. And in Hawai‘i, farmers sow cacao seeds in hopes of reaping lucrative rewards.

The first cacao trees arrived here in 1850, courtesy of botanist William Hillebrand, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that local growers began capitalizing on this promising crop. A small but increasing number of cacao farmers now cultivates around 100 acres across Hawai‘i. Their harvest is still too slim for the National Agricultural Statistics Service to track, but that’s likely to change. University of Hawai‘i researchers estimate that cacao could ultimately cover up to 3,000 acres statewide, generating $34 million annually. That would rank it among Hawai‘i’s top crops alongside sugar, seeds, macadamias and coffee. That’s just where it belongs, according to some island farmers.

“We’re the pioneers,” says Pamela Cooper. Eighteen years ago, she and her husband Bob left North Carolina for Hawai‘i Island. When the Coopers surveyed the mature, productive cacao trees on their new six-acre orchard in Keauhou, they knew they’d struck gold. Pamela laughs, “The chocolate had plans for us.” Their retirement morphed into a second career: launching their business, Original Hawaiian Chocolate, and with it, a new industry.

chocolate03The Coopers invested $1 million turning a farm shed into a chocolate processing factory. Then they set about building a market for their product. “It was our vision to see the Islands become the Napa Valley of chocolate in the United States,” says Pamela. “Bob travelled to all of the islands encouraging people to grow cacao. To our delight, they are!”

Hawai‘i is the sole place in the U.S. where cacao can grow, as the heat-loving tree thrives in the tropical belt. At 21 degrees north of the equator, Hawai‘i is nicknamed “the North Pole of cacao.” While it may be a little chilly, the Islands’ northerly location confers certain benefits. Beans grown here tend to have higher  cocoa butter content. Plus, major cacao diseases haven’t made it to Hawaiian shores.

Slender, droopy-leafed cacao trees produce yellow or scarlet pods that emerge straight from the trunk. Crack one open to find wet, feathery pulp surrounding clusters of beans. The pulp is sweet, but the beans are bitter. To create the confection everyone knows and loves, chocolatiers must ferment, dry and roast the beans, winnow away the husks, and grind the resulting nibs into a liquid—and that’s just the beginning. Chocolate making is truly both science and art.

As Hawai‘i’s nascent cacao industry develops, local companies devise unique business models. Some produce single-origin chocolate from beans they grow; others collect the best beans from Hawai‘i and elsewhere and hone their chocolate-making techniques. In 2012, local cacao aficionados formed two organi zations: the Kona Cacao Association, which produces the annual Big Island Chocolate Festival, and the Hawai‘i Chocolate and Cacao Association, a statewide group of nearly 100 cacao growers, confectioners and educators. The extremely cooperative bunch shares expertise, seeds and equipment.

chocolate04From the start, the Coopers supplied cacao seedlings to anyone willing to grow, with an agreement to buy back the beans. They now source beans from 27 neighboring orchards, in addition to their own. At the Original Hawaiian Chocolate farm, the Coopers make chocolate from bud to bar. They ferment cacao beans in slatted mahogany boxes, dry them in the sun for 30 days, and store them for two years before further processing. They discovered the last step by accident; their initial crop had to wait while they constructed their factory. “That was an ‘A-ha!’ moment,” says Pamela. “Like wine, cacao beans continue to develop their flavor in storage.” The end result is 100-percent Hawaii chocolate, available as hand-poured bars or blossom-shaped bites.

On the opposite end of the archipelago, Tony Lydgate produces small batches of single-origin chocolate at Steelgrass, an eight acre family farm above Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. Lydgate has published scientific research on cacao and participates in University of Hawaii field trials to determine which varietals grow best. “We be lieve cacao offers tremendous promise for the island of Kaua‘i,” he says. Unlike the Coopers, Lydgate doesn’t own a factory. Instead, he’s investing in more trees. He’s planning on increasing his orchard tenfold, from 300 to 3,000. His five-year plan is to  establish a cooperatively owned chocolate processing plant on Kaua‘i.

Each island yields cacao with slightly different characteristics. Terroir, the wine industry term that describes how landscape affects a grape’s flavor, applies equally to chocolate. The state’s largest cacao grower, Waialua Estate Chocolate (a subsidiary of Dole Food Company) manages 20 acres on O‘ahu’s north shore. The 13,000 cacao trees planted along the loamy banks of Kaukonahua Stream produce beans with hints of dark cherry, berry and raisin. They’re sent to San Francisco for processing by one of the best chocolate makers in the business: Guittard. The finished product finds its way onto the menus of top restaurants.

Chocolatier – Someone who makes chocolates, such as those dipped, nutty, or cream-filled confections.

Confectioner – Professional that makes confections, which are food items that are rich in sugar and carbohydrates. This can include sweet pastries, sugar candies and chocolates.

Chocolate Maker – Someone, or a company, that buys and roasts cocoa beans and grinds them into chocolate.

chocolate05Two of the most lauded local chocolate makers, Manoa Chocolate and Madre Chocolate, don’t own farms. Instead, they purchase premium cacao from Hawai‘i, Latin America and Africa and perfect the hallmarks of good chocolate: mouth feel, snap, flavor and finish. Their artisan bars are spiked with ghost pepper, Hawaiian sea salt, quinoa or candied hibiscus. Last year Madre Chocolate partnered with Big Island farmer Gini Choobua to perfect a fermentation method that highlighted the exceptional gooseberry and Brazil nut notes inherent in Choobua’s cacao. The team netted first place in the bean-to-bar competition at the 2014 Big Island Chocolate Festival.

chocolate06Of all the Hawaiian chocolates, Melanie Boudar’s are the most beautiful. Hand-painted with cocoa butter, they’re irresistible, edible jewels—literally. One of her specialties is sprinkled with 24-karat gold: the “Fruit of the Cocoa” truffle, made with 70 percent dark Waialua chocolate and filled with ganache and cacao pulp. Sweet Paradise Chocolatier, her posh boutique in Wailea, Maui, is Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory hit with a haute couture wand. The glass case gleams with dark squares topped with slivers of starfruit, shiny red hearts bursting with liliko‘i, and green swirly marbles infused with Tahitian lime. Boudar is no amateur; she attended both the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver. In addition to producing superior chocolate, Boudar takes an active role in sustainable cacao production around the world.

chocolate07Meanwhile, on the other end of Maui, a relative newcomer to the Hawai‘i cacao scene has big ambitions. “My intent is to make the best chocolate in the world,” says Gunars Valkirs. The retiree- turned-farmer sold off a medical diagnostics business and bought ten acres in Lahaina, Maui. At Maui Ku‘ia Estate, 1,400 cacao seedlings wait in a greenhouse for the windbreak and canopy trees that Valkirs planted to mature. “I’m taking my time, building a forest,” he says. “I’m hoping that Lahaina can produce really great flavor. It has rich, agricultural soil.”

Terroir is important, but Valkirs thinks choosing the right cacao varietal is the key to exceptional chocolate. After he determines which genetics grow best in Lahaina, he’ll plant 30 acres and produce 60,000 pounds of chocolate a year. “I always thought I would be a winemaker. But I decided I didn’t want to live in [wine-growing] areas,” he says. “I love chocolate. I eat an ounce of chocolate every day. It’s more of an obsession with me.”

Clearly, he’s not alone.

Edible Hawaiian Islands’ 2015 Local Hero Awards

Each year we ask our readers and the community at large to share with us the individuals, businesses and organizations they feel are making a difference in our food culture and sustainability. Votes come in from across the State and beyond our shores. Here we proudly share the results, giving credit where credit is due. This year is our 9th Annual Local Hero Awards and we added a NEW category by request: Dessert/Pastry.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.54.18 AMFavorite Non-Profit

Hawaii Public Seed Initiative
– The Kohala Center
Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island

“The Hawai`i Public Seed Initiative is honored to be voted one of Edible Hawaiian Islands “Local Heros.” We are proud to have the opportunity to work with an island-wide network of small farmers, gardeners and interested community members who are dedicated to creating and sharing a source of locally adapted seeds for our diverse island microclimates. This growing movement of seed saving, seed education, and community building are vital to building Hawai‘i’s long-term food self-reliance and survival. We are grateful for the on-going support of; The Kohala Center; our partners at UH CTAHR who guide us in our efforts, Russell Nagata, Glenn Teves and Hector Valenzuela and The Ceres Trust which believes that maintaining genetically diverse, locally adapted seeds is the “lynch pin” for a healthy, sustainable food system. Every seed holds the promise of life, it is the responsibility of all of us to carefully and consciously nurture and protect this precious resource for future generations.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.54.26 AMFavorite Farm or Farmer

James Simpliciano, Simpli-fresh Farms
Lahaina, Maui

“I kindly thank you all for voting me as your local hero farmer for edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine. I owe my inspirations to my parents, grandparents, and my friends and family here on Maui. As a keiki growing up in the islands, I always enjoyed growing and eating fresh fruits, vegetables, gathering limu, and diving for tako. It really feels inspiring to farm here on the island, bringing a diverse pallette of foods in colors of the rainbow. I appreciate all the visitors abroad who came and spend a moment in time with us at Simpli-fresh produce LLC. My friends and I have farmed over fi ve years here on the West Maui mountains, creating an oasis of fruit and vegetable forests for the families, school gardens and local restaurants. Our passion is to continue to mentor, educate new farmers, gardeners and visitors. We hope to continue to share our love of farming, by the way we Mālama our ʻĀina for generations to come. Mahalo for being part of our lives.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.54.37 AMFavorite Artisanal Beverage

Big Island Coffee Roasters
Mt. View, Hawai‘i Island

“When we first moved to Hawai‘i we were just grateful to be farming in warm weather. But, over the years, as we’ve settled in and evolved as a roasting company, we’ve realized the warmth of Hawai‘i comes from the people living here. There’s an authenticity and sincerity of culture in Hawai‘i that’s so strong it inspires the products you can create and the work you do. For that reason, community leadership, particularly in the coffee community, feels like a supportive side-by-side, step-by-step walk with everyone around us: from farmers to baristas, and customers to colleagues. We’re honored.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.54.45 AMFavorite Pastry Shop or Pastry Chef

Michelle Karr Ueoka, MW Restaurant
Honolulu, O‘ahu

“Thank you to the readers of edible Hawaiian Islands for this wonderful surprise. I am deeply humbled by this honor. I owe it all to the MW Restaurant ‘ohana and our farmers, purveyors, fishmongers, ranchers and dairy farmers who make our job easy. Without them, creating desserts would be very difficult. Every day it is always a joy to work with them and create new desserts.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.54.53 AMFavorite Food Shop

The Locavore Store
Hilo, Hawai‘i Island

“We’re so thrilled! Since the beginning, our community has been incredibly supportive of this endeavor and it is all the more encouraging to have their support made tangible with this award. We are grateful and honored to be included with the very people who are our heroes, who we so admire and respect. For us, this award is a testament of the appreciation for and awareness of all of the unique farms and artisans we represent, their tireless creativity and hard work. There is so much ingenuity on the Big Island, and throughout Hawai‘i, we’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s very rewarding to look back on what we’ve been able to accomplish within our community, by bridging the gap between our small-scale, dedicated food suppliers and crafts-people and the wider public. Mahalo nui loa for such a wonderful affirmation! We look forward to continuing growing our work and relationships.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.55.04 AMFavorite Chef or Restaurant

Big Island Brewhaus
Waimea, Hawai‘i Island

“The Big Island Brewhaus team is honored to be recognized as a Local Hero. This recognition is especially dear to owners Tom & Jayne Kerns as it was their dream, when opening a brewpub in Waimea, to create a community gathering place that would welcome residents and visitors of all ages. Big Island Brewhaus is dedicated to supporting local farmers, fisherman, ranchers, musicians and businesses; to brewing and bottling (only in Hawai‘i) quality handcrafted beer and handcrafting locally-based food as delicious and diverse as our beer; to recycling and being as ‘green’ and sustainable as possible. That our efforts and the hard work of our crew are appreciated by our community is a great reward in itself.”

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.

Eat The Skin; It’s Where The Flavor Is!

Words by Wanda A. Adams
Photography by Mieko Horikoshi

Two culinary generations ago, the speaker was chef Paul Prudhomme, not yet a then household name — just a visitor giving a cooking demonstration at the original Sur La Table in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Both Prudhomme and Sur La Table would become nationally known brands for the then-new “foodie” tribe.

Prudhomme was teaching us to make a skin-on cut of pork fried in pork fat, then braised. When he called for questions, I innocently asked “But chef, why can’t you make these dishes without all the fat?”

The room went still. “But, cher,” he said, “that’s where the flavor is!”

In that era of skinless, boneless chicken breast and pork that had no fat or flavor whatsoever (“the other white meat”), he had put his finger right on it.

When I was a child on Maui, my favorite thing about my Grandma’s Portuguese bean soup was gnawing on the knobby, impossibly rich ham hock that absorbed and encapsulated all the ingredients in the mixture.

For that all-important fat, Prudhomme explained, you need skin. Almost every form of animal protein (except for wild game) is outfitted with a layer of fat under the skin.

Today, chefs have rediscovered this in ways that make the most of the least. Their dishes aren’t drowning in grease. They’re using techniques from braising to broiling to melt away fat but concentrate flavors in those enticing, crisp and yet soft outer layers.

Edible Hawaiian Islands talked to a number of nutritionists who, although they admitted that fat is needed to metabolize certain important nutrients, invariably ended by saying “Moderation in all things.”

Avoid mass-produced fast food, learn how to fry (temperature is an all-important key because deep-frying actually seals the food and keeps the fat out). Occasionally indulge in a few tablespoons of chopped bacon or fish skin scattered over fresh, local vegetables and whole grains. Delectable, and you’ll want to eat things that are good for you.

My view of Brussels sprouts, for example, changed when I learned to core them like tiny little cabbages, toss the leaves in a wok together with bits of salt pork, herbs, onions and a good grind of black pepper.

Many cultures treasure dishes involving skin: Japanese deep-fry scaled salmon skin or that of other fish to become a sort of condiment or snack (perfect with beer). Filipinos have lechon (roast suckling pig brined in a sugar/salt/water mixture and slow-roasted, often outdoors in a masonry oven). Even the “skin” of tofu becomes a delicacy when it becomes aburage, a salty-sweet pouch for sushi rice or other ingredients.

Over the course of the next week will be posting the recipes of four Island chefs that strip to the skin and show us how. Check back into our Recipe category often!

Foraging Hawai’i With Sunny Savage

Story by Kristen Hettermann

Photography by Sue Hudelson

“Food is such a great way to bring people together… we gather, we share, we commune.”

Sunny Savage can walk anywhere in nature, look at the natural plants, and create a meal. She calls herself a forager.

Sunny’s world is nothing short of a brilliant energy, nourishment and creative abundance. It’s hard not to be captivated by Sunny’s gorgeousness, as she gushes about the healing properties of the weeds growing in her garden. “Did you know elderflower plant and berries shorten the average viral infection from 7 days to 3-4 days?”

It’s easy to latch on to Sunny’s captivation with the huge diversity in plants and the many cultures, textures and flavors to be explored. Committing one hour a day to food harvesting and processing, her daily foraging is a practice of humility, gratitude and sharing. “The plants and I share the earth…its atmosphere and its water,” she say. “We share a moment in time together while I’m out there foraging. I sing them a song and they dance in the breeze. I think positive thoughts while harvesting and they nourish me.”

Sunny feels that every moment as a forager is an opportunity to think about the broader implications of our relationships with our plant friends and how best to peacefully coexist. She has dedicated her life to campaigning on behalf of wild greens and their bounty of micronutrients, phytonutrients, and fiber.

Coming from a “back to the land” family in Northern Minnesota, this visionary didn’t take long to hit the road. At the age of 18, she landed a job running a kitchen at McMurdo Station in frosty Antarctica. Years later, she found herself in Africa working with the Pygme Folks through a USDA Grant to introduce wild foods in gardening projects. By the time she was 30, Sunny had ventured to every major continent and held a resumé that boasted a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Education, with a focus on the antioxidant properties of wild greens.

“I grew up close to nature—with a respect for nature. Some of my fondest childhood memories include tapping maple trees and harvesting wild berries,” says Sunny. “I received inspiration from my mom, who taught us a lot about medicinal plants, about making tinctures and salves that cured all of our ills. I knew from an early age that going to nature was the answer for optimal health.”

While she was filming her TV series Hot on the Trail with Sunny Savage in 2008, Sunny traveled by RV and motorcycle through 17 states visiting state parks and wildlife refuges. The show currently airs in the U.S. and can be found in markets in Eastern Europe. “My goal has always been to educate as many as I can about wild foods and to share my passion. There is incredible fun in getting outside and recognizing how to eat these gifts that are just waiting to be unwrapped!” Sunny’s Hot on the Trail tour took her to Maui and Kaua‘i, where three episodes were filmed. She rented a room for her project base in Maui, where she fell in love with her landlord, Ryan Savage. Their love affair took her around the world on yet another adventure.

“It was my husband’s lifelong dream to sail around the world,” says Sunny. The couple made plans to go on a sailing adventure like none other, exposing Sunny’s first son, Saelyn, to the world at large. Leaving Maui in August of 2010, Sunny and Ryan picked up their sailboat in Florida and circumnavigated around the Caribbean. Starting in St. Lucia, they sailed through the Caribbean chain to northern South America, Colombia and the Caribbean side of Panama, then back up to Florida via Honduras and Mexico. “I am a forager at heart, so I was always looking for new and old plants to play with,” says Sunny. “I was able to learn about many new plants, as well as share my own knowledge with hundreds of others.”

Some highlights? Teaching the Kuna that cattails were edible. Preparing several wild food dishes while presenting at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. Sharing knowledge with rastas in Dominica. Tending a permaculture farm gone wild. “I nibbled my way through many countries…tasting their wild side.”

Foraging Hawaii at www.ediblehi.com

Back on Maui, Sunny and Ryan decided to have a child, and a short year after the return from their adventure, little Zeb was born. In describing the honor in motherhood, Sunny’s face melts as she talks about her service to her newborn son. “He smiles and it melts my heart. Nourishing myself is nourishing him.”

Sunny is adamant about raising her little one with wild foods. Babies can start with poi and stewed wild greens. Kiawe flour and edible flowers are wonderful additions for growing keiki, and Jamaican vervain flowers (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) are great little flowers for children to utilize. “Our children learn through example,” says Sunny. “Eating a bio-diverse diet, full of different colors, smells, flavors and textures, sets the nutritional foundation of a healthy life.” And the uses of wild foods don’t stop at eating. Baby Zeb is often dressed in handmade bamboo onesies with wild nettle and milkweed fibers dyed with wild coyote brush.

Sharing is a major theme at the Savage home, as Sunny, her family and their Woofers all work the land daily. Her terraced, permaculture-style garden going far into a gulch has over 30 weeds and plants harvested weekly for food. “Nature is so abundant that I oftentimes find myself with more than my family and I need. Our property has 11 people living on it, so sharing the abundance feels good and is integral to community building.”

Foraging Hawaii at www.ediblehi.com

So what’s up next? Sunny is releasing Wild Food Plants of Hawaii, a self-publishing effort covering several wild food plants of the Hawaiian Islands, as well as her personal manifesto on the importance of eating wild foods in the face of punctuated global change. Once the book is finished, Sunny is moving toward editing an inspirational film about her family’s trip through the Caribbean. In addition, she is excited to find new combinations of plants for her medicinal clothing line, and will continue teaching and strategizing about the use of wild foods here on Maui and for our global family.

“I relate to aloha. I feel it. I live it. I teach it to my children. Love of my fellow brothers and sisters, love of the ‘āina, and love of the Ha‘ikū mist that blesses us and brings rainbows.”

To buy Sunny’s upcoming book: wildfoodplants.com

For more information on Sunny Savage: sunnysavage.com



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