The 4th Annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival kicked off last week with “Aloha ‘Aina, Aloha Kai – Love of the Land, Love of the Sea” in Waikoloa on the Big Island. The festival concluded this past weekend with 4 big events, with the latter 3 events being sold out—Keiki in the Kitchen: Food, Fitness, & Fun; Corks & Forks; Battle of the Brunch Showdown; and It’s A Food World After All.
For the first time, children could attend a Hawaii Food & Wine Festival event. Coty and I headed to the Honolulu Zoo, the venue for Keiki In the Kitchen: Food, Fitness & Fun this past Saturday. At $5 per person, it was a deal in getting to see several renowned chefs and watching live cooking demonstrations by a few of them. With the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association (HMAA) sponsoring the event, HMAA members enjoyed free admission.
Besides the meet-and-greet tent with the famous chefs, cooking demonstrations, and the Kellogg’s and Foodland Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, there was a farmer’s market with a number of local vendors and an area for food trucks. Keiki (Hawaiian word for “children”) could also participate in fitness and physical challenges throughout the day.
Chefs Jason Fox, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Hiroyuki Sakai were the judges for the Kellogg’s and Foodland Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, the keiki cooking competition. In the 8-12 age category, Arianna Thompson won with her strawmato cold soup. Both Hunter Gentry (whose food creation was shrimp and vegetable won ton cups) and Krislyn Miyagawa (who made seared salmon with pineapple salsa over sauteed asparagus) won in their age category, 13-17 years old. The winners were awarded 2-night stays at the Outrigger Reef Hotel and dinner at either Roy’s or Alan Wong’s with 10 guests of their choosing.
Coty and I stayed for most of the event, watching all 3 cooking demonstrations by Chefs Art Smith, Cat Cora, and Raphael Lunetta. Luckily, the whole audience had a chance to sample all of the chefs’ dishes.
Chef Art Smith, executive chef and co-owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago, prepared “unfried chicken” (baked instead of fried) over a little biscuit made with whole wheat flour and oats, topped with sliced strawberries and honey. He talked about how Oprah Winfrey had requested to have fried chicken on her birthday and soon thereafter, everyone wanted to eat fried chicken! He was really enthusiastic and engaging during his cooking demonstration, so I can see why Oprah loved having him as her personal chef for 10 years. Not to mention that his unfried chicken was also flavorful with a little kick to it.
Chef Cat Cora showed us how to prepare baked coconut shrimp over a slaw of julienned broccoli stems. People flocked to see her for most of the day, asking to take a picture with her. She was quite sweet and I loved the twang in her speech. She was the first chef who asked me for my name, so that she could write it in my autograph book.
The last cooking demonstration was by Chef Raphael Lunetta, chef and owner of JiRaffe restaurant in Santa Monica, California. When he called to have a few children help him on stage, a whole hoard of children, along with a few adults, ran up to join him. Now, that’s what I call having keiki in the kitchen! He plated coconut shrimp over mashed potatoes with a sauce made with peas and carrots. To the surprise of most parents, the children were not turned off by the idea of trying the sauce made of carrots and ginger, with peas swimming in it. In fact, a little boy stayed on stage, eating spoonfuls of the sauce.
At the beginning of the event, we were given little autograph books that included pictures of the celebrity chefs and some recipes. We actually managed to get most of the chefs’ autographs that day.
The first celebrity chefs we spotted were Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. They were so approachable, with Chef Nobu telling me to sit next to him to take a picture.
I was most star-struck with Chef Sakai, owner of La Rochelle in Japan. I used to watch the original Iron Chef TV show, which was of course dubbed in English for us, and just seeing this Iron Chef legend made my day as a foodie.
Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini was also there. He now has his own consulting company, Sugar Fueled, Inc. He was the head judge of Bravo’s culinary competition series, “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” I’m actually quite excited to get a copy of his book, Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking, which is being released soon.
I also saw my favorite local pastry chef, Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka. I love the desserts that she creates at MW Restaurant, especially the MW Candy Bar and the Tropical Fruit Creamsicle “Brûlée.”
Of course, we couldn’t leave the event without meeting Chefs Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, the co-founders of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. It’s only fitting that these two chefs were awarded the John Heckathorn Dining Excellence Award at last year’s Hale Aina Awards.
I hope that the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival will continue to have these kinds of events where children and young aspiring chefs can submit their recipes for healthy, delicious dishes and interact with their favorite chefs. Keiki In The Kitchen: Food, Fitness & Fun was a great way to spend the day with the entire family.