When I attended the Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit earlier this year, I was surprised a culinary event could be so colossal. It was massive in the amount of gala events and star-studded chefs all spread out at various hotel venues over a number of days.
But the second annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, happening Thursday to Sept. 9 on Oahu, will be of monumental proportions as well. The good news for Hawaii is that it's all about sustainability.
The only things not sustainable are the tickets. Five of the events are sold out and others are being snapped up as I write this.
Former chef of Chez Paul and The-Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, Patrick Callarec is now executive chef of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu. He’ll head up the “Cuisines of the Stars: A Magical Journey of Food & Culture” on Sept. 9 as the grand finale of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.
AULANI, A DISNEY RESORT & SPA photo
“Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto will be a big draw again his year along with 60 other superstar chefs.
HAWAII FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL photo
Many chefs will use sustainable and underutilized Hawaii fish.
HAWAII FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL photo
“Enter The Modern Dragon: Morimoto & Friends” will kick off the festival Thursday with sustainable foods of Hawaii by world-class chefs. But tickets are going as fast as you can uncork a bottle of champagne.
HAWAII FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL photo
Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Executive Chef Jeffrey Vigilla is seen at Hirabara Farms on the Big Island. The chef will host “Farm to Table: Makahiki Festival” Saturday on the grounds of the 3,500-room Waikiki resort.
HILTON HAWAIIAN VILLAGE WAIKIKI BEACH RESORT photo
Featuring 60 master chefs as well as top vintners, the four-day event will be hosted at numerous venues, starting with the kick-off party at The Modern Honolulu; followed by daytime tastings and seminars and a $1,000-a-plate dinner at Halekulani; a giant extravaganza under the stars at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort; Girls Got Game brunch at Hyatt Waikiki; and the grand finale at Ko Olina Resort with Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa both participating.
Heavy-hitting chefs will include Nobu Matsuhisa, Dean Fearing, Hubert Keller, Ming Tsai, Ron Siegel, Francois Payard, Nancy Silverton, Celestino Drago and too many others to list here.
"I'm very excited for this event and can't wait to share the experience with people in Hawaii," says "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto, who has a restaurant with his last name on it at The Modern, and who will lead the first of the many events, "Enter The Modern Dragon: Morimoto and Friends," from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
"This year's theme is Hawaiian local produce, and I believe it is perfect for Hawaii because the state is so rich in its natural resources.
"I always enjoy and take advantage of using local fish and vegetables for my restaurant," continues Morimoto, who is reportedly opening a restaurant on Maui next spring. "They are flavorful and really delicious."
Superstar chefs from the U.S., Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and Korea have been invited to create dishes in their own culinary and cultural traditions using produce and products from the Hawaiian Islands.
"During this event, I'm sure that everyone, even those who live here, will rediscover amazing flavors of local foods," Morimoto says.
The Modern will also set the stage for Friday's events, which run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It's called "Mix with the Masters: A Delicious Day of Demos, Talks and Lunch."
Highlights include "Get Raw & Wild in Hawaii" with Morimoto and Ming Tsai as they go mano a mano with a live cooking demo with fresh catch.
"Hawai'i in a Bowl" lets you trace and taste the culinary history of Hawaii in five delicious bowls from poi to poke. You may also learn at "Building a Sense of Plate and Place," a seminar about 21st-century challenges and opportunities, which face landowners, growers and chefs in regards to our food supplies.
"The Battle of the Food Geeks" is an "American Idol" spinoff, in which Silicon Valley's leading investors bring their "food techies" to pitch their ideas in front of venerated chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi and Todd English.
Yamaguchi, who owns a restaurant in Kaanapali as well as in other tony spots around the country, is co-chair with Alan Wong, owner of Alan Wong's Amasia at Grand Wailea, among other restaurants.
"It's the first time that a food festival gets participation from the state, industry and the community," says Yamaguchi. "It's about bringing more tourism into the state, creating more jobs, showcasing our local chefs, farmers and ranchers, having our visiting chefs from around the world use our great agricultural and seafood products."
Wong agrees that the spotlight needs to be on the farmers and the fishers.
"Last year, Hawaii had its longest ever bottom-fishing ban, like six months," says Wong, who, with Yamaguchi, is among only three James Beard Award-winning chefs in Hawaii.
"We also used to produce 70 percent of dairy and eggs used here. Now it's flipped, to just like 30 percent.
"We need to not only buy local, but we need to support local businesses, farmers, agriculture, read, become more aware of the issues that Hawaii faces, get the facts and not just rely on hearsay," continues Wong. "In our generation, we need to make a difference so future generations can have what we have."
That's great news that these co-chairs will remind the other chefs of the crucial importance of sustainability. But most participants already know that the tide must turn now.
For instance, the 3,500-room Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort will present the Farm to Table: Makahiki Festival on Saturday night with all of the big chefs in attendance, and they will all be using local products. "If you were to choose which event to attend, this would be the most fun, biggest and star studded with 23 chefs from Hawaii and all around the globe participating," says the Hilton's Executive Chef Jeffrey Vigilla.
"We are excited to once again be a venue for the annual festival," says Jerry Gibson, area vice president for Hilton Hawaii. "This event continues to place Hawaii on the map as a world-class culinary as well as sustainable destination."
"The Makahiki atmosphere will be charged with music, wine, and, of course, the food prepared by the globe's most talented chefs, which you will be able to meet firsthand," says Vigilla.
"I will prepare Malama Farm smoked pork adobo made with Hamakua pepeiao mushroom and ginger jook, a new take on my father's adobo kicked up for this event," says Vigilla.
Last, but certainly not least, will be "Cuisines of the Stars: A Magical Journey of Food & Culture" on Sept. 9 at Ko Olina Resort with Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa both hosting.
"Our finale will feature 13 world-renowned chefs who will create a culinary tour of ethnic foods from around the world at the lagoons under the stars," says Aulani's Executive Chef Patrick Callarec. "Come have a glass of wine, and some great food. It's a fun event with lots of talent.
"For Aulani, I will present fresh Hamakua mushroom and abalone poke with grilled red Big Island veal in luau sauce," Callarec continues.
Participating chef George Mavrothalassitis, the only other James Beard Award-winner from Hawaii, will impress diners with mochi-crusted island fish in Japanese-citrus sauce.
"I'm looking forward to joining an esteemed group of culinary professionals as we will all prepare ethnic dishes utilizing Hawaii produce and products in order to showcase a menu that's representative of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds," adds Scott Higa, the executive chef of the JW Marriott Ihilani.
To purchase tickets or view the complete event schedule, visit www.hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com.
* Reach Carla Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.