October 2017 Highlights: #OptForUgly Movement, HFWF Chefs That Love Local, Kids Cooking Local Expands

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Check out some of our top highlights from this month, including:


ATTN Keiki Artists: Localicious Hawaii Art & Poetry Contest is LIVE!


Creative keiki can immerse themselves in food and imagination for the fourth annual Localicious Hawaii Art and Poetry Contest presented by Hawaii Gas. The statewide competition, sponsored by the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, kicked off on Monday, October 2 and encourages K-8 students to learn more Hawaii-grown ingredients. This year’s theme is “My Favorite Dish Created with Locally Grown and Raised Crop,” and is part and is part of the yearlong Localicious Hawaiʻi public awareness campaign to promote our farmers, rancher and fishermen.

Students artists can enter to win a class party with a local celebrity chef, up to $100 mall shopping spree and be featured on the front cover of the Localicious Hawaii 2018 calendar. For more information on how to enter the contest, visit http://www.hawaiiagfoundation.org/localicious-hawaii/art-poetry-contest.



Think about the last time you wandered through the grocery store and into the produce aisle. Your selections may have seemed simple– a perfectly shaped tomato, a vibrant orange and a picturesque bunch of carrots – but you may have fallen victim to one of the biggest misconceptions of the supermarket industry.

Today, tons of fresh fruits and vegetables are tossed into the dump solely because of how they look, contributing heavily to America’s food waste problem. Once it doesn’t sell, it’s dumped in the trash, where it piles up in the landfill a lot faster than it can biologically decompose.

However, there’s still hope for the ugly bunch. In the past several years, you may have seen the campaign that knocked the socks off of Europe’s food industry. Popular French grocery store Intermarche made a splash in the supermarket pond by making hideous fruits and vegetables the center of the attention. According to a story broadcasted on National Public Radio, the company stocked up on the lumpy and bumpy items that typically got tossed to the side, gave it its own aisle in the produce section and marketed it with a 30 percent lower price. In efforts to further convince shoppers that this stuff was the real deal with the same taste, the store made them into soups and shakes that sold like crazy. The result: consumers got over the market standard appearance and opted for the cheaper priced items.


Intermarche’s supermarket campaign caught the eyes of consumers across the world.


Jump over to the United States and you’ll see that the same “ugly is beautiful” movement has gained traction over the past few years in some of the most well-known supermarkets in the country. In fact, in 2016, Whole Foods and Walmart hopped on the bandwagon and committed to selling imperfect produce. Here in Hawaii, the measurement of what does and doesn’t make it off the field tends to vary. Aloun Farms shared that the percentage fluctuates based on a number of factors – such as weather and crop care.

Today, local growers continue to work closely with the consumer to provide education on how two fruits of the same variety could look different, but still taste the same. Lokoea Farms in Haleiwa pins up a poster at its farm stand, explaining why some oranges don’t look like the typical orange that is advertised on Tropicana cartons. Kahuku Farms was able to save several irregular-looking crops, such as their apple bananas, by opening a farm stand café along the busy Kamehameha Highway back in 2010. Aloun Farms hosts a culinary competition where they put their off-grade products to use and educate keiki about the reality of food waste in the Islands.


Kahuku Farms’ Farm Café offers mouth-water smoothies, garden-fresh salads and hot-off-the-grill sandwiches using its off-grade product.


Hawaii’s farmers are also working directly with local distributors in getting the goods onto the market. “At Aloun Farms we have a variety of customers from will-call, food service, wholesale, to retail,” shared Vaneza Agustin of Aloun Farms. “Certain retail stores will take off-grade products if additional processing is done to the produce, such as putting them into cellophane bags and marking them for a special sale.”

With that said, we’re inching closer to a food revolution but there’s still a lot of work to be done. It all starts with the consumer to create a demand for the product and the chefs who can disguise it in their masterpiece dishes. Ask questions, talk to your community farmer and become a true advocate for the #OptforUgly movement.


10 Chefs at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival That Are Gung-Ho on Local


Fireworks, food fights and fine wine…oh, my! The 2017 Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (HFWF) is just around the corner and more than 100 internationally-renowned master chefs are coming together for the hottest epicurean experience in the Pacific. Before the celebration begins, we want to take a moment to recognize Hawaii’s culinary masterminds who are passionate about reviving the region’s flavors.

Local chefs are the key to growing Hawaii’s agriculture industry and making sure that ingredients grown by the hands of hardworking, small farmers are put to good use. Get to know a small handful of HFWF 2017’s tastemakers, who work day-in and day-out to preserve the Pacific’s gastronomic roots, by checking out our list below. Read their full bios, see the extensive menu of participating talent and purchase your tickets to #HFWF17 at www.hfwf.me.




Michelle Karr-Ueoka & Wade Ueoka – MW Restaurant

Husband and wife, Michelle Karr and Wade Ueoka, joined forces in 2013 to open MW Restaurant, specializing in regional cuisine. The couple both served as proteges of Hawaii’s own James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong before opening their own eatery. In February 2014, the James Beard Foundation nominated MW Restaurant for “Best New Restaurant.”

Michelle’s passion for cooking was ignited after an externship at Alan Wong’s Honolulu. Pursuing her dream, Michelle furthered her training at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, during which she completed a stage at Daniel, and an externship at The French Laundry. She rejoined Alan Wong’s where she spent six years on the savory side. Moving again, back to New York, she staged at Thomas Keller’s Per Se where she switched her culinary track from savory to pastry to become a successful pastry chef in Hawaii. In 2012, as a pastry chef, Michelle received the Rising Star Chef Award from StarChefs.com. She was also nominated for a James Beard award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef.”

Wade Ueoka took his first job as a fry cook at Zippy’s. Though his beginnings were humble, they did not deter him.  Two years after working at Zippy’s, he landed a job as a prep cook at Alan Wong’s Honolulu, and seven years after that, Wade rose to become chef de cuisine.  Wade possesses a culinary degree from Kapiolani Community College and has staged at high esteemed restaurants such as The French Laundry and Las Vegas’ Alex.  His biggest inspiration, and the one that continues to drive him to this day, are the Asian delicacies he grew up watching his mother cook. In 2012, he was awarded the Rising Star Chef Award by StarChefs. 


Lee Anne Wong – Koko Head Cafe

Lee Anne Wong is the chef and owner of Koko Head Cafe, a popular island-style brunch house nestled in Kaimuki. A native of Troy, New York, Wong graduated from the International Culinary Center (ICC), formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, and began her culinary training at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit before playing an integral role in the opening of Jean Georges Vongrichten’s Chinese concept, Restaurant 66. Wong went on to work as the Executive Chef of Event Operations at ICC, during which time she was prominently featured on Season One of Bravo’s Flagship Series Top Chef, and subsequently was hired as the series' Supervising Culinary Producer for the next 6 seasons, helping to build the show into the powerhouse it is today.

In late 2013, Wong moved from New York City to Honolulu where in 2014, she debuted Koko Head Café and won local and national acclaim in Honolulu Magazine, Bon Appétit, Food and Wine Magazine, Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Huffington Post. Wong released her first cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong, in August 2014.


George Mavrothalassitis – Chef Mavro

Food lovers come from all over the world to savor the trend-setting flavor combinations and wine pairings created each season by Chef George Mavrothalassitis “Mavro” and his young culinary team. 

Mavro is a founding member of Hawaii Regional Cuisine (HRC) and is one of only three Hawaii chefs to earn the prestigious James Beard Award.  Born in the sunny Mediterranean city of Marseilles in Provence, France, Mavro has set deep roots in Hawaii over the last 29 years by embracing local culture and taking inspiration from the Islands’ culinary traditions.  As a strong supporter of Hawaii’s fishermen and boutique farmers, he comments: “Sometimes buying local means the cost is higher and it takes more time, but local farmers succeed and my guests enjoy fresh, regional ingredients and a dining experience they could have only in Hawai‘i.”

Chef Mavro is the only independently owned restaurant in Hawaii with the American Automobile Association (AAA) Five Diamond award (2008-2017), and the highest food rating in Hawaii, Three Toques (18/20) and Gayot’s “Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S.” Wine Spectator recognized Chef Mavro as one of the eleven “Most Important French Chefs Working in America” along with Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire, Daniel Boulud and others.


Jayson Kanekoa – Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa’s Executive Chef Jayson Kanekoa is credited for his innovative creativity and for pioneering the resort’s renowned Chef Shuttle program, a farm-to-table experience in which Chef Kanekoa personally accompanies guests to local farmers’ markets and farms in his hometown of Kamuela. Afterward, he concludes the daylong excursion with an unforgettable, customized multi-course dinner under the stars, prepared with fresh produce selected throughout the day. 

Kanekoa remains committed to Hawaii’s agriculture industry by working directly with island purveyors. His passion for farm-fresh ingredients has led him to collaborate with various local producers, such as JA Farms in growing an exclusive organic green salad blend, to a local orchard in Kona in sourcing authentic Kona coffee beans. In addition, he has garnered significant recognition and prestigious awards, such as two-time Aloha Week Festival Poke Competition Grand Champion, Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Grand Champion and a nomination for the J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence.  


Keith Pajinag – Ravish Honolulu

Ravish Honolulu’s Executive Chef Keith Pajinag was born on Oahu, though later grew up in kitchens around Juneau, Alaska. By peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables while standing on egg crates in the back of the kitchen, Chef Keith worked his way through his mother’s seventeen different establishments. At 22 years of age, he set off to pursue his own career as a tastemaker and moved to Seattle, where he cooked for the Four Seasons and three other restaurants at the same time. Outside of his ambitious work ethic, Keith deeply honed in on his culinary talent by working with greats like Seattle’s Jared Wentworth. However, he always had a desire to return Hawaii because of his attraction to its strong local fare. 

In 2015, Chef Keith brought this wealth of experience in the Pacific Northwest, along with his upbringing in Hawaii and Alaska kitchens, to THE MODERN HONOLULU as executive chef of the hotel. Afterward, in 2017, he spearheaded the opening of THE MODERN HONOLULU’s Ravish, a farm-to-table destination that incorporates South American flavors with Pacific Asian soul foods.


Sheldon Simeon – Tin Roof

Born in Hilo, Chef Sheldon Simeon learned how to cook from his father and grew up cooking for family gatherings. He attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, where he quickly fell in love with the food industry and continued on to the Maui Culinary Academy to receive two associates degree in culinary and baking. Chef Simeon now owns and operates Tin Roof in Kahului, where he provides a fun take on classic local dishes using locally grown and raised ingredients. His mix of innovative modern cuisine and adherence to traditional cuisine influence his dishes and help shape his menus. 

In 2011, Simeon was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef & Best New Restaurant. He competed in the 10th and 14th season of Top Chef, finishing both times as a Finalist and Fan Favorite. 


Scott McGill – T S Restaurants

Scott McGill, the corporate chef of T S Restaurants, has been a member of the T S Restaurants’ team since 1994. Throughout his tenure at T S Restaurants, McGill had brought innovation and finesse to the menu development while respecting the traditions and successes of the individual restaurant concepts. He has worked at various T S Restaurant locations as the Executive Chef, including Kimo’s, Duke’s Waikiki, Duke’s Beach House Maui, and Hula Grill Kaanapali, all of which are dedicated to highlighting Hawaii grown ingredients. Scott also is a member of the Maui Culinary Academy advisory board, and one of the three Maui chefs that started the “Grown on Maui, Localicious” an initiative to grow the next generation of farmers and ranchers on the island.



Colin Hazama – The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Chef Colin Hazama oversees the culinary operations of The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. Hazama moved to the resort in August of 2015 after spending six years at the Sheraton Waikiki, launching RumFire restaurant, then most recently as the hotel’s senior executive sous chef. In 2015 at age 33, he became the youngest executive chef in the history of the hotel. Earlier that year, Hazama was named as one of Hawaii’s brightest young stars by Pacific Business News for its Forty Under 40 Class of 2015.

A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Hazama is often praised for his work of praising local tradition while in the kitchen. In 2014, he was named as one of Modern Luxury magazine’s Ten Top Chefs in Hawaii to Watch.” In 2011, he was invited as a featured guest chef at the James Beard House in New York City representing the State of Hawaii, and was also selected as a semi-finalist in the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards “Rising Star Chef of the Year.” 

Isaac Bancaco – Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

Leveraging the harmonizing power of flavor, locally grown ingredients and globally-refined technique, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort's Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco pays tribute to his stout local roots through food. Born and raised on Maui, Bancaco prides Hawaii's locally grown and produced goods by giving diners a paralleled sense of place and a taste of his island home.

After securing his first cooking position at the acclaimed Blue Ginger under Ming Tsai, Bancaco competed as Tsai's sous chef on "Iron Chef America,” where the team was the first-ever to defeat Chef Bobby Flay. As an active player in supporting small farms, Bancaco strives for a perfectly balanced menu with nearly 85 percent of his ingredients having been sourced from Maui’s top growers, ranchers and fishermen. 


Bev Gannon – Ben Gannon Restaurants

One of Maui’s most celebrated culinary masters, Bev Gannon has secured herself as one of the consistently top-rated chefs on the island. Bev is best known to local foodies as one of the twelve original founders of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement, which champions the concept of using fresh local ingredients. She offers different menu options which feature island-fresh ingredients and flavors that define her particular style and personality as the chef/owner of Haliimaile General Store, Joe’s in Wailea, Gannon’s Restaurant, and Celebrations Catering, the longest-running catering company on the island.

The recognition that Bev has gained for her island-influenced dishes has built a following of critical acclaim, both locally and nationally, including a 2004 nomination for the prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Hawaii/ Pacific Northwest.” 


Kids Cooking Local Expands to Two New Title I Schools for 2017-2018 SY


The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation (HAF) has teamed up with Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii (BGCH) for the expansion of Kids Cooking Local. This year, the program, which launched in partnership with After-School All-Stars Hawaii (ASAS), will impact over 50 students at ASAS - Jarrett Middle School, ASAS - Waianae Intermediate School, BGCH - Spaulding Clubhouse and BGCH - Ewa Beach.

Kids Cooking Local is a dynamic program that teaches students at Title I schools about the importance of agriculture and how to work with farm-fresh ingredients in the kitchen. Throughout the course of the quarter, after-school classrooms participate in interactive cooking classes – hosted by a professional chef – using produce from HAF’s Local Inside Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This year’s chefs include Chef Royce Arakaki of Flour & Barley and Hale Pono, Chef Randy Bangloy of Eating House 1849 Kapolei Commons, Matt Young of Hula Grill Waikiki and Darryl Shinogi of Roy’s Ko Olina.  Students also become more involved in the process of farming by engaging in hands-on garden lessons.

The end result: students become better versed in Hawaii’s agriculture industry, food preparation, safe kitchen skills and how to cook creatively.