We take selecting the cover of each issue to heart. We like the cover to be edible in some way and to reflect Hawai’i.
Many times the cover is obvious, meaning as we are putting the magazine together the cover image emerges and it’s just completely obvious. Not a word needs to be spoken – it’s like a secret language that we all know and we give each other that look and a head nod.
Other times we struggle. We can’t find that perfect image. Sometimes we have several images to choose from and we haggle. Each of us getting louder as we pitch our reasons why our selection is the best choice.
Sometimes we allow others to have their say and acquiesce to another. And that’s what happened with our Spring 2014 cover. The sunflower photograph was taken by Kirk Michael Surry of www.growsomegood.org, A Maui based non-profit that is really creating positive change in the community through public school gardens.
The image slowly grew on me. And the more I looked at the bight yellow color and abstract quality the more I fell in love with the image. But it took me quite a while to get to a place of letting go.
Mainly the lesson for me was that I’m not always right but if I allow room for others to share their opinion and create a creative place that it always works out.
A resurgence of school gardens in Hawai‘i isn’t just connecting students with the joy of getting dirty. The growing renaissance of outdoor learning is bringing a holistic awareness of health and nutrition to students and their families. What the kids learn at school translates into the home, where long-term changes can happen.
School gardens are not a new idea in the Hawaiian Islands. Until the late 1960s, they were common in Hawaii schools. Yet somehow, student grown gardens became far and few between, for decades. “I’ve spoken with so many kupuna [elders] who remember working in their school gardens, bringing the harvest to the cafeteria, and eating what they grew,”says Nancy Redfeather, Director of the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network.
In the last decade, classrooms in the form of school gardens have been rebuilt to inspire future farmers, hands on learning, and nutrition. According to a 2012 report on school gardens in Hawai‘i, the state boasts 168 campus gardens involving 21,577 students and 830 teachers on 30 acres of land. Redfeather says that Hawai‘i Island has more school garden teachers than any other island, while 96 percent of Big Island schools are home to a learning garden.
For decades, student-run gardens were typically implemented at the local level. Today there’s a national movement to get students growing their own fruits and vegetables. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is inspiring schools to plant food through its Farm to School Program, which includes research, training, technical assistance, and grants.
“They’re really trying to reconnect kids with the land and the source of food,”says Redfeather.
Thanks to a new program called Hawai‘i FoodCorps, a national AmeriCorps program that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, Hawai‘i is experiencing an influx of school garden teachers. The Big Island’s Kohala Center, a non-profit, community-based center for research, conservation, and education, has been chosen to be the Hawai‘i host site for the program.
In late 2013, FoodCorps service members were chosen to work in eight schools on four islands. Selected college graduates are dedicating one year of full-time public service in school food systems, where they will expand hands-on nutrition education programs, build and tend school gardens, and help bring high-quality, locally produced foods into schools.
Redfeather, who is also the program’s host site supervisor, says eight positions were filled out of over 1,000 applications. “We have to raise up the quality of school lunches, and this program is dedicated to change,”she says.
But today, although an ever-growing number of schools throughout the islands are offering up space for gardens, eating the harvest isn’t as simple as a carrying it from the garden to the cafeteria kitchen.
Students do get opportunities to reap what they sow, but Department of Education (DOE) standards prevent the produce from being served in the cafeteria. It takes some creativity to find ways to serve the harvest. Organizations like Grow Some Good on Maui have found fun ways for students to prepare, cook, and eat what they grow.
“We do a pop up café in the school garden. The kids harvest the produce, and are then assigned to a kid-friendly work station at a harvest festival,”says Kirk Surry, co-founder of the nearly seven-year-old organization that works with 2,500 students across seven different Maui schools. He says that chefs from notable Maui restaurants assist the young farmers in creating a meal for everyone to enjoy.
‘Aina in Schools, a branch of the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, has found a unique way for students to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The raw ingredients come from the fifth grade Three Sisters Garden, a Native American inspired bed composed of squash, beans and corn. “At the end of the unit the students harvest it all and prepare a stew for everyone,”says McKinney.
Although the focus may be on gardens, students learn more than just how to plant and pick vegetables. The Grow Some Good program teaches students holistic farming techniques. “It’s all organic and sustainable farming methods,”explains Surry. “We also make our own compost, do permaculture at many sites, and make bokashi, a compost made with beneficial micro-organisms.
On O‘ahu, students participate in six components of a garden curriculum, spanning kindergarten through sixth grade with ‘Aina in Schools. According to Natalie McKinney, Director of Program Development, grades K, 1, 4, and 5 focus on garden-based lessons, grade 3 learns to compost, and grades 2 and 6 gain nutrition education. ‘Aina in Schools currently has 15 participating schools in their farm-to-school program.
Redfeather notes that hands-on learning helps students retain and apply concepts, and that lessons in campus gardens encompass many different academic subjects. Says McKinney, “Everyone at the school partakes in the garden in one way or another, the administration, the custodial crew, and the cafeteria workers.”
For Surry, the satisfaction comes from watching children become genuinely thrilled in working outdoors with nature, something that’s becoming increasingly hard to instill in youth since the emergence of iPads, video games, and social media. He recognizes that the earlier children get involved, the more genuine their interest is.
“It’s remarkable to see the difference between kids who started in preschool at an age when gardening is magical and full of wonder; they stay engaged. Kids who start a lot later and have never seen organics or eaten many vegetables, it’s tougher to get them into it.”
While student gardeners will someday contribute to a food sustainable future, Surry says the most inspiring part of his job is watching children become more nutrition conscious.
He says the transition some children make is nothing short of amazing. “We’ve watched kids go from not knowing how to peel a banana, to being able to identify heirloom tomatoes, and different kinds of beans, eggplants, and other vegetables.”
This is where Hawai‘i school gardens have a positive effect on a level much deeper than the soil they’re working with. A program that opens children’s eyes to the beauty of healthy, organic food is life changing in a state where approximately one third of children are obese or overweight.
“It’s amazing what a kid can do,”says Surry. “It’s not just about the future, it’s about right now. These kids go home and tell parents what they did in school and ask for homemade smoothies with kale. Then the parents show up and ask us what kale is, and later go and get some. The kids are setting an example that the adults learn to follow.” Redfeather also sees the long-term affects of students becoming passionate about gardening. She says, “Anything these children grow, they will eat. It’s completely changing the future of food for them.”
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.
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.”
Growing Business Three island food entrepreneurs share their recipes for success.
By Heidi Pool
Josh 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.”
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.”
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!
Surnim cherry, Brazilian cherry, or Cayenne cherry: E. uniflora L.
The shrub or tree grows to 25‘ high, has slender, spreading branches and aromatic foliage. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit is 3/4 to 1 1/2 “ wide, turns from green to orange as it develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish maroon when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh orange-red and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or 2 or 3 smaller seeds.
The Surinam cherry grows in almost any type of soil–sand, stiff clay, soft limestone–and can even stand waterlogging for a time, but it is intolerant of salt.
The ripe fruits is eaten out-of-hand. Cut a slit vertically on one side, spread open to release the seed(s), and kept chilled for 2 or 3 hours to dispel most of their resinously aromatic character. If seeded and sprinkled with sugar before placing in the refrigerator, they will become mild and sweet and will exude much juice. They are often made into juice, jelly, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine.
The seeds are extremely resinous and should not be eaten. The leaves have been spread over the floors of homes and when walked upon, they release their pungent oil which repels flies.
“The more successful the farmers are, the more successful we all are,” says Ron Miller, owner and executive chef of Hukilau Lanai. This April, Ron and Krissi, his wife and business partner, will celebrate their fourth year as owners of Hukilau Lanai, an open-air, fine dining restaurant in Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. In that time, the Millers have learned to ask themselves four questions when evaluating their options: Is it good for the customer? Is it good for the employees? Is it good for business? Is it good for the environment?
“Buying local is a priority,” says Ron. “Every year, we make more connections and it just keeps getting better and better.” The couples’ success, they feel, is a result of building and nurturing those commitments. Their loyalty to regional growers is transparent: their menu reveals numerous island sourced products. Their annual anniversary festivities revolve around their Earth Dinner, a tradition started to honor Kaua‘i food growers with a meal created from their harvest.
“We’re learning how to answer the environmental questions better,” says Ron. “I think it’s best to do your own research and learn, instead of accepting what’s common.” The Millers have numerous eco-friendly practices in place at the restaurant, assessing everything down to the crayon stubs left at the table by sticky-fingered toddlers. (They’re given to a local candle maker!) After exhaustive recycling and composting measures (food scraps, cooking oil, office paper, wine corks), close to nothing goes to waste from the restaurant’s daily operations.
Ron got his start in restaurants as a dishwasher and busboy at The Sun Porch in Hopwood, PA back in 1982. He upgraded to the kitchen a few years later. The creativity and camaraderie were appealing to the young, self-proclaimed hippie. He decided to make cooking a career.
Honing his craft at the Allen Room, a homey, 35-seat restaurant in Pennsylvania, Ron learned to make each meal from scratch. Every day he produced a new, handwritten menu and had at least five stocks simmering on the back stove. He learned how to turn a restaurant into a successful business while working at a giant 400-seat restaurant in northern Virginia. It was here that Ron met and married Krissi. In 1997, they moved to O‘ahu, where Ron worked at Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai, an award-winning pioneer of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. An opening at Gaylord’s at the Kilohana Plantation brought the Millers to Kaua‘i. When Hukilau Lanai opened in 2002, the Millers joined the team; eight years later, they bought the restaurant.
As an innovative chef who likes to push his culinary boundaries, Ron actively cultivates his passion for learning. On a recent trip to San Francisco, the Millers ate at 10 restaurants in five days. A traditional Burmese pickled tea leaf salad, called Lahpet Thoke (pronounced “la-pay toe”) caught Ron’s fancy. To add it to his menu at Hukilau Lanai, Ron sourced Cloudwater Tea, the only tea farm on Kaua’i that produces whole leaf tea grown without herbicides or pesticides, harvested and processed by hand.
Ron rang in the new year by hosting a charcuterie class at Hukilau Lanai taught by Francois Vecchio [[visiting from where?]], a skilled craftsman with great passion [[for what?]]. In three days, Vecchio showed Ron and his staff, as well as other notable chefs from O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, how to turn whole, local hogs into a wide variety of charcuterie, including aspic, sausage and salami.
Incidentally, adventurous eaters craving the Hukilau Lanai charcuterie plate, a revolving medley of headcheese, pâté, and mortadella, must be added to a wait list for the housemade delicacies. The Miller’s skilled staff also makes knackwurst and bratwurst for their annual Oktoberfest Fest menu.
Outstanding In The Field, a national pop-up known for its elegant al fresco dinners, scheduled a Kaua‘i event this past January. It was no surprise that the organizers called on Ron to create the locally-sourced, six-course meal. About forty guests dined together at the long, open-air table set under the shade of mango and tangerine trees at Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy, a certified organic goat farm in Kilauea.
At the dinner, chef Vecchio was honored and charcuterie was served, along with big salads of pickled vegetables and Kunana Diary goat cheese. Fresh mahi mahi, braised goat, Kaua‘i clams and shrimp, ‘ahi, and Koloa Rum were also featured through the meal.
With characteristic aloha, Ron has graciously shared a few of his recipes from that stunning dinner with us here.
Sunday is a day many families look forward to for no work and all play. This holds true for Ed and Spanky Kenney and their keiki, Celia, 15, and Duke, 12. Theirs is a busy household and the kitchen is the hub of activity. Many would expect a huge, fancy kitchen with all the latest gadgets from award-winning chef Kenney, owner of Town restaurant in Kaimukï. Instead, it is small and close knit, just as the family itself.
Here’s the scene: 60’s rock ’n roll pumps in the background. Spanky relaxes and reads while Ed and the kids file in for breakfast duty. With just enough room to rub elbows, the kitchen comes to life with kid’s bright, enthusiastic energy. They shuffle between the fridge and prep counter.
Before heading out for a beach day, their tradition is to make waffles out of pa‘i‘ai, a concentrated form of poi (hand-pounded taro root). There is no real recipe to this causal, locally sourced dish. Simply refrigerate the pa‘i‘ai for several days, cut a 1″ slice and pop it in the waffle maker with a slice of butter. After a homemade breakfast together, they pile into the car and go.
The waffle recipe was conjured up by Duke and executed by Celia. With a little tweaking, it just may appear as a new menu item at Town. This morning the waffle was topped with banana, straw- berries, honey, and whipped cream, but it can be eaten plain, right out of the waffle maker too. Once it’s cooled it becomes firm, but retains that slight, sweet twang of fresh pa‘i‘ai. The kids also recommend using the waffle as a base for savory ingredients.
Cooking and sharing a meal has always been a focal point for this family. Spanky does most of the shopping and the kids participate in much of the cooking. Celia tends to stick to the recipe, while Duke’s love of food and cooking is more freestyle. He’s known to put together a meal with whatever is on hand in the fridge or garden. A few years back that spontaneity lead Duke to enter a cooking contest after overhearing the five minute call for final en- tries. His creation, a slice of Big Island beef, some warm pa‘i‘ai and fresh tomato, placed first to everyone’s surprise!
Clearly, the real secret to their family cooking is a pure love of delicious, local food, cooked simply and to perfection.
GROW: a simple concept that is so important to life. We can grow a community, an idea, or a single plant each step rippling long term effects along the way. Within the pages of this issue are stories of growing ideas that we hope will educate and inspire. We turn the spotlight on Kaua‘i chef and restaurant owner Ron Miller of Hukilau Lanai, who grew his love of cooking to include his neighbors and community; three entrepreneurs who are growing business by following their passion for good food (and drink!); how the garden classroom movement is helping our keiki bloom; and the art and science behind seed saving—because without seeds how would we grow anything?
The expert growers, our farmers, are having to master so much more these days in order to keep their farms viable and in the black: everything from social media to SEO, agri-tourism, and the creation and marketing of value-added products. The modern farm isn’t what it used to be; journalist Britt Yap took a closer look for us.
Exciting things truly are sprouting up at your local farms: You really need to go meet your growers! The heart of this issue is our first annual Hawai‘i Farm Guide, a statewide resource of food growers, including who they are, where they are, and what they offer. We feel so strongly about this that we’re calling for a statewide Farm Day on Saturday, May 24. Schedule this afternoon to go visit a local farm you’ve been meaning to. Meet the growers, get to know their operation, taste their food, and document it all on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #EHIFarmDay. More about this on page 34.
Lastly, we tip our hat in congratulations to the winners of our annual Local Heroes awards. These are the people, businesses, and organizations in Hawai‘i that make a difference in our food scene, as determined by community vote. You’ll find the results on page 8. Please, take a moment to thank and congratulate each member of this impressive bunch for his or her important contributions.
Edible Hawaiian Islands is growing, too. Our new website just launched. I am incredibly proud of it and invite you to browse www.ediblehi.com and leave your thoughts and comments. If you are so moved, subscribe! We’d love our relationship to grow into a beautiful and long-lasting exchange.
Dania Katz Publisher
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edible Hawaiian Islands P.O. Box 849 Wailuku, HI 96793