Our panelists shared their thoughts on questions left by the audience during EAT THINK DRINK 11: Open for Business – The New Normal for Restaurants about how restaurant support for local agricultural has change since the pandemic.

How has restaurant support for local ag – farmers, ranchers, and fishermen – changed since the pandemic, is it more/less?

Lee Anne Wong, Executive Chef, Papa‘aina at the Pioneer Inn

Koko Head has always worked closely with our local farmers and producers and because of our temporary closure, that business goes away for them too. At Papa’aina, I am working with a handful of farms here on Maui, as well as ranchers and local fishermen. The quantities are considerably less for obvious reasons, and it’s tricky when dealing with extremely perishable ingredients like seafood. If anything, the COVID pandemic shows us how much more we should be self-sustaining and investing in our own economy. One of the best things my fiancé and I did was build a now flourishing garden during the shutdown.  

Kevin Hanney, Chef/Owner, 12th Ave Grill

12th Ave Grill has been a supporter of local sourcing of ingredients since our opening in 2004. We currently have a list of about 40 local farmers and purveyors we buy from. Obviously, being closed at this time has brought that to a temporary halt. We look forward to ordering from them in October. As Lee Anne said, they have been hit very hard by the pandemic as many of them sell almost exclusively to restaurants. Can’t wait to get back to business.

Henry Yoon, Founding Partner, DB Restaurant Group

It’s definitely more, but we all wish it could be on a bigger scale. CSAs, curated meal kits and promoting local support are all on our respective social media pages. Local media focus has helped—but we definitely need more. We need to encourage our local leaders to take photo ops of CSA purchases, farmers markets, picking up food from local restaurants since no one can take pics of kissing babies anymore. At Mad Bene, we are a distribution center for Kahumana Farms Produce Boxes on Fridays, and it has been a great symbiotic relationship.    

Dylan Ching, Vice President of Operations, TS Restaurants

Dukes in Waikiki is far different than Hula Grill (80-90% local and not open) and our outer island restaurants.  All of our other restaurants have been longtime supporters of local farmers.  Dukes volume really puts a stress on local farmers so we usually ask them how we can help.  We can take a specific product or two and they then can supply us, and we don’t wipe out the rest of the consumers trying to get their local products. During the pandemic we have been able to use more local products because they have supply and our demand is far lower. Our overall usages are way down, but we are trying our best to buy whatever we need from our islands. Fish is always local.