Featured Speakers and Chefs


Keynote Speaker: Eric Pond, co-owner of Greenleaf Farm Management

Eric Pond, co-owner of Greenleaf Farm Management in Oregon, will share his expertise honed over a 25-year career in the agricultural industry in the Pacific Northwest.  Before joining Greenleaf, a farm management services company, Pond was with Equilibrium Capital Group, LLC, in Portland, where he served as the developer of the firm’s permanent crop strategy which focused on investing in permanent cropland and synergistic midstream assets to create vertically integrated, sustainable farming enterprises. Pond’s keynote will address how farms of all sizes, family-run to commercial farms, can leverage different opportunities to appropriately scale and succeed in operating their businesses in today’s technology-driven world. 


PANELIST: Fred Lau, owner of Mari's Gardens

Fred Lau is the owner of Mari's Gardens which is a hydroponic and aquaponic farm located on 18 acres in Mililani, O'ahu.  He has been a landscape contractor and nursery owner in Hawaii for over 40 years.  In 2010 at the urging of his son, he converted an acre of his ornamental plant nursery in Mililani into growing produce.  The farm has now grown to 2 acres of greenhouse production and 1 acre of outdoor growing.  The farm employs 17 people producing over 6 tons of lettuce along with cucumbers, tomatoes and other edible crops each month.  He is a firm believer that greenhouse technology will allow Hawaiʻi to become much more food secure in the very near future.


PANELIST: Dana Shapiro, Co-Founder of Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative

Dana Shapiro was born on a small, cooperative farming community (kibbutz) in northern Israel and raised partly in Los Angeles. She returned to Israel on a Fulbright Scholarship to study the socioeconomic changes that had taken place in Israelʻs cooperative rural sector between 1985-2005, and completed an M.Sc. in cooperative business development and adaptive capacity in 2010. Since then she has worked primarily in Hawaii as a rural development consultant. In 2015 she co-founded Mala Kalu‘ulu - a worker cooperative farm restoring 4 acres of the traditional kalu‘ulu (breadfruit belt) in South Kona through Kamehameha Schools' Mahi‘ai Matchup contest. In summer 2016 she co-founded the Hawai‘i ‘Ulu Cooperative (HUC), an agricultural producer co-op made up of individual ‘ulu farmers, which now has over 50 members and counting. Since its inception, HUC has aggregated and processed nearly 100,000 pounds of ‘ulu for distribution to local food service operations—primarily schools and hospitals. Its mission is to revitalize ‘ulu as a viable crop and dietary staple for Hawai‘i.


PANELIST: Janel Yamamoto, program director of GoFarm Hawaiʻi

Director of the GoFarm Hawai’i Program, Janel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management.  She has been a VP of a large bank in Hawaii and has particular expertise in financial analysis, compliance, project management and human resource issues.  Janel has consulted with farmers throughout the state and teaches the GFH business classes. 


MODERATOR: Kamuela Enos, MAʻO Organic Farms

Born and raised in Wai’anae, Kamuela comes from a family of cultural practitioners and farmers committed to sustainable agriculture. A vocal advocate for innovative educational approaches that serve all learners, Kamuela has turned his challenged secondary education experiences into a successful post-secondary academic career. Kamuela has an undergraduate degree in Hawaiian Studies and a M.A in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa.






David Lukela, ʻAlohilani Resort Waikiki Beach

The research lab may be in a different locale, but food is still science to David Lukela.

For nearly six years, Lukela served as a research lab supervisor at the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS with the University of Hawaiʻi’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. That’s when he decided it was time to begin experimenting with the idea of another career path. Lukela enrolled at the Kapiolani Community College’s (KCC) Culinary Arts Program in 2010, and while there, began as a cook’s helper at the Sheraton Waikiki in July of 2010. He never looked back after that.

Lukela was named sous chef at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa in 2014, after having been at the Vintage Cave restaurant in Honolulu since 2012. 

“I was starting to see food and science merge together and was excited about the possibilities,” said Lukela. “While doing medical research, I was starting to see a lot of equipment I used in the lab be used in the kitchens, and that’s when I knew the kitchen was my calling.”

After receiving his culinary arts degree from KCC, Lukela began working in the pantry at Nobu Restaurant – moving up through all the stations, and learning as much as he could. After a year and a half at Nobu, he was offered to open Vintage Café with former chef Chris Kajioka. Lukela started working in the hot appetizer station, until he was offered the executive sous chef position after only six months. He describes his experience at the exclusive, private dining restaurant as “transformative,” and one that helped shape him into the chef he is today.

Although his grandmother was his inspiration to work in the food service industry, Lukela considers himself a “late bloomer” in the industry, and that he had a lot of “catching up to do.” But he says career success hinges on personal aspirations and sacrifice.

“Everything depends on how bad how bad you want it, how much you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals,” he says. “For me, I wanted to be a chef and I was willing to sacrifice everything. Work hard, learn from your mistakes – never repeat them – and always have a positive attitude and put the kitchen before yourself.”

In addition to his culinary degree from Kapiʻolani Community College, Lukela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry, with a minor in economics, from Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu.


Jason "J" Schoonover, 12th Ave Grill

Chef J has led his team to multiple Hale ʻAina Awards and other prestigious accolades as Executive Chef at 12th Ave Grill. His previous Executive Sous Chef position in the kitchen of James Beard Award winning Chef Roy Yamaguchi at the flagship “Roy’s” on Oʻahu honed his culinary skills and brought him to international events cooking side by side with celebrated Chefs like Tetsuya Wakuda and Nobu Matsuhisa.

Schoonover credits his love for natural flavors to being raised in his Mother and Grandmother’s kitchens.  He passionately seeks new flavors and ingredients, sampling the spectrum of new foods being cultivated especially for chefs committed to innovating Hawaiʻi's modern cuisine.


Chris Gee, La Tour Cafe

Christopher graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and has been professionally cooking for 18 years working at Chez Panisse Cafe and Dining Room in Berkeley, and Hoku’s in The Kahala Hotel. He enjoys sleeping, reading, and listening to his vinyl records (in that order).Christopher graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and has been professionally cooking for 18 years working at Chez Panisse Cafe and Dining Room in Berkeley, and Hoku’s in The Kahala Hotel. He enjoys sleeping, reading, and listening to his vinyl records (in that order).


Elmer Guzman, Poke Stop

Chef Elmer Guzman was born and raised on Maui and attended the culinary program at Kapiʻolani Community College and The Greenbrier - which is one the world's most prestigious culinary program. Chef Elmer has also worked with iconic chefs such as Sam Choy, Emeril Lagasse and Alan Wong.

He is the owner and executive Chef of two Poke Stop locations. The first location established in Waipahu Town Center in 2005 and the second location opened in Mililani Mauka in 2009. In September 2014, Poke Stop became one of the companies to be featured at Hawaiʻi’s Favorite Kitchens in Kapahulu.

He also has a catering division which operates under the name Chef Elmer Guzman's Island Cuisine. The catering division gives Chef the opportunity to utilize his diverse culinary background to branch out and create delectable and innovative cuisine. Chef Elmer also supports local businesses by "buying local" and developed the "Adopt a Farm" program with Mari's Garden in 2013.


Tommy Sao, Morimoto Asia and Momosan Waikiki

Studied classic French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, California and graduated in 2008. Chef Tommy moved to Scottsdale, Arizona where he began the journey in a professional kitchen at Troon Golf Resort. In 2010 Chef Tommy moved back to Los Angeles and worked at Pacific Palms Resort where he acquired the knowledge of fusion cuisine at Red Restaurant. Following his passion for French Cuisine, Chef Tommy worked under two Michelin star Chef Josiah at Melisse in Santa Monica. In 2012 Chef Tommy moved to Las Vegas and worked under Michelin star Chef Andre Rochat at Alize, acquiring classic French cuisine. In 2014 Chef Tommy landed the role of Sous Chef at Shibuya at MGM Grand where he wanted to pursue Japanese cuisine and soon after became Executive Sous Chef. In 2016 Iron Chef Morimoto came to MGM and Chef Tommy stayed on and be a part of the opening team of Morimoto Las Vegas as Executive Sous Chef. In 2018 Chef Tommy joined the team of Morimoto Asia and Momosan Waikiki, Hawaiʻi as Executive Chef.