Heading to the East Maui Taro Fest next weekend? Come a day early as Maui's favorite small town of Hana will present acclaimed Hawaii chefs Isaac Bancaco, Lee Anne Wong, James Simpliciano and Derek Watanabe at a multi-course taro dinner.
Made possible through a partnership between Travaasa Hana resort and Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine, this dinner will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 2, at Kahanu Garden, a National Tropical Botanical Site that is just a short drive from Hana town along the beautiful northeastern coastline.
Four delectable courses will be served family-style and all will highlight taro, or kalo, the main Hawaiian diet starch and topic of the upcoming documentary, "I am Haloa."
Meet kalo activist Daniel Anthony (from left), and Kamehameha Schools seniors Lahela Paresa, La‘ahiahoaalohaokekaimalie Kekahuna and Taylor Anne Meali‘i Fitzsimmons as they are filmed in Hana for a documentary.
AARON YOSHINO photo
Daniel Anthony, kalo activist and "I am Haloa" film subject and consultant, will be at the event with the students featured in the documentary to "talk story," as we say in Hawaii, and to demonstrate poi pounding. Joel Katz will perform on steel guitar, and attendees will be taken on a private tour of amazing Kahanu Garden before dinner.
It's got the world's largest breadfruit orchard, a pandanus forest, awa plants and the magnificent Pi'ilanihale heiau, or Hawaiian altar, which is now a National Historic Landmark.
When it premieres, "I am Haloa" will highlight Kamehameha Schools seniors La'ahiahoaalohaokekaimalie Kekahuna, Lahela Paresa and Taylor Anne Meali'i Fitzsimmons, as they travel on a journey of self-discovery under the guidance of Anthony, their kumu "teacher" and kalo kui "taro pounding" practitioner. The young women go island hopping to gain a better understanding of their ancestry, as they meet with respected elders, as well as reestablish a lifestyle link to the first Hawaiian, Haloa.
"I am Haloa" benefit dinner: Travaasa Hana and Edible Hawaiian Islands will present a multicourse taro dinner with celebrity chefs from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 2, at Kahanu Gardens in Hana. Cost is $75 per person, plus tax and fees. For tickets, visit www.iamhaloaohana.eventbrite.com.
As legend goes, Haloa was the first son of Wakea (Father Sky) and Papa (Mother Earth). But he died stillborn. His younger brother was also named Haloa and was healthy. The first Haloa became the first kalo or taro.
For 90 days, these seniors are committed to cultivating, harvesting and eating taro for three meals a day, and this feast will be one of them.
The award-winning chefs will do this respected Hawaiian staple justice and add bling as well. Bancaco of the Andaz Maui just won Chef of the Year in the Ai Pono Awards; Wong of Koko Head Cafe is a "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef" star; Simpliciano of Simpli Fresh Produce is a farm-to-plate advocate; and Watanabe dazzles diners at Travaasa Hana.
On May 3, the seniors will appear at the Taro Festival at the Hana Ballpark. After they learn about new and traditional kalo farming techniques, they hope to inspire other young people at the festival and get them excited about their communities, culture and Haloa.