Drawing in the crowds as usual will be the 23rd annual Maui Onion Festival Saturday at Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurant at Kaanapali Resort.
With continuous entertainment on two stages, it's always a draw because it's fun for the whole family.
Highlights include the Maui Onion Eating Contests for keiki and adults, live music, cooking contests, chef demos with free food samples, other food booths, a beer garden and vendors.
Anchor Ramsey Wharton of Hawai‘i News Now (right) interviews Executive chef Chris Schobel of Hula Grill in Kaanapali as he makes Thai scented gazpacho, Maui onion soup and pickled onions.
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Lisa Donlon of Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants with last year’s Maui Onion Cookoff winner DK Kodama of Sansei.
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Admission and parking are free and the fun activities will run all day long from 9:45 a.m. until after dark.
"Whalers Village signature event since 1990, Maui Onion Festival will be even more dynamic than ever, summoning the creativity of Hawaii's greatest chefs, and drawing a crowd for free culinary samples and a fun-packed day," says organizer Lisa Donlon, who is also the mall's marketing manager.
"Here's a chance to learn about Maui's top upcountry agricultural crop through the dazzling interpretations of our island chefs and the great restaurants of Kaanapali. The highlights are many, including prime retail offers, music, and entertainment - which will provide a perfect balance for all that good food."
Event at a glance:
Where: Outdoors at the Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants in Ka'anapali Resort.
When: From 9:45 a.m. until after dark on Saturday.
How much: Free admission and free parking. Nominal fees for plates at food booths.
Highlights: Food booths, recipe contest, games, prizes, beer garden, chef demos, live entertainment, adult and keiki onion eating contests, Cinco de Mayo bartender drink contest and free gift for attendees who purchase $150 or more shopping.
Entertainment: Enjoy hula and music by Scotty Rotten, Air Force Band of the Pacific, Benoit Jazz Works and Barefoot Minded.
For more details: Call 667-4567 or visit mauionionfestival.com.
Do stroll around the expansive mall with outdoor walkways and check out the Beach Front Lawn area as well as the Center Stage. Food booths and vendors will be scattered around both.
New this year will be the Cinco de Mayo Mixed Drink Contest, pitting the bartenders from various Whalers Village restaurants to create the best concoctions.
Chef demos, free tastes
At 10 a.m., Chef-owner Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise in Honolulu will braise Kurobuta pork belly with caramelized Maui Onions, natural jus.
At 10:45 a.m., come watch Chef James McDonald of Pacific'o and I'o in Lahaina demo a panini of smoked pork and Maui onion jam.
At 11:30 a.m. Kevin Hanney of the Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar in Honolulu will pan roast Maui Cattle Co. mock tenderloin with caramelized onion sous-vide and smoked onion jam.
12:15 p.m. returning champ of the Maui Onion Cookoff, DK Kodama of Cane & Taro and Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar fame, will demo pan-roasted fresh opakapaka with his own version of creative Maui Onion relishes, to be sure.
At 1 p.m. David Paul Johnson of David Paul's Island Grill will demo sweet Maui Onion fritters with caramelized Maui onion aioli. And at 1:45 p.m. Jojo Vasquez of the Banyan Tree Restaurant will do oyakodon with Maui Onion and pea shoots.
In addition, the above-mentioned chefs will also compete in the Maui Onion Recipe Contest at 4:30 p.m.
But the cooking fun doesn't stop there. A group of chefs from Kaanapali Resort will enter the final phase of the Maui Onion Challenge at 10:30 a.m. They are all serving their Maui Onion specials at their restaurants through Sunday.
Participating restaurants include Pulehu an Italian Grill, Tropica, Royal Ocean Terrace, Hula Grill Kaanapali, Tiki Terrace and Cane & Taro.
Of course, the Maui Onion Eating Contests are a hoot to watch. How do you eat a lot of onions, you say?
The Maui Kula Onion (its trademarked name) is a golden-pale globe with a super mild taste. Arguably the sweetest onion in the world, it is grown on about 150 acres in Kula. Its name is trademarked to safeguard authenticity.
Bring your shopping bags and put on some sunscreen to buy onion products and other Maui foods. It's sure to be a day of onion fun in the sun.