The last day of the 4th Annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival arguably featured two of its biggest events: Battle of the Brunch Showdown at the SHOR restaurant on the 3rd floor of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa and the grand finale, It’s A Food World After All at Ko’olina Beach. Exploration: Hawaii was fortunate to have eaten our way through both events.
Hosted by Adam Richman of Man v. Food fame, the Sunday Brunch featured a cutthroat all-in-good-fun battle of the chef duos. New York pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini was paired with Jackie Lau of Roy’s Hawaii. Iron Chef Jose Garces teamed with Cuisine a Latina author, Michelle Bernstein. Top Chef Season 1 alum and newly minted Kamaaina, Lee Anne Wong formed a formidable duo with the Hyatt Regency Waikiki’s Executive Chef, Sven Ullrich. These master chefs were tasked with cooking up some of the “most creative, delightful and tasty breakfast-lunch dishes.”
We could not have asked for a better day for this event. The weather was perfect, with clear skies and sunny weather. The bright blue Waikiki beach served as the backdrop for this event. Of course, the guests would serve as the judges. I’d have it no other way, especially with the steep entry price tag of $95.
Before making our way to the contestant tents, we made sure that we snagged a table. While everyone was trying to get their hands on the frosted flake encrusted french toast and mango mimosas, we instinctively made our way to the best seat in the house, fronting the main stage and sitting just next to host Adam Richman. And then we ate, and ate, and ate some more.
Lee Anne Wong & Sven Ulrich
Team Wong & Ulrich served up a twist on the breakfast classic, bacon and eggs. Wong created a corn flake breaded french toast with Via Gelato bacon ice cream.
Sven Ulrich remixed the classic devilled egg with his soft boiled Ka Lei egg with spicy Shinsato bacon jam, lox of gagel panko, Ho Farms tomato-mushroom salsa, Nalo Farms amaranth, and Ulupalakua red hollandaise.
Jose Garces & Michelle Bernstein
Garces & Bernstein’s plates definitely had a Latin influence. Garces served Spanish morcilla with egg, braised local greens, confit potato, and smoked paprika hollandaise. Who doesn’t love blood sausage?
Michelle Bernstein kept things light and simple with her opakapaka ceviche tacos. Seriously though, where can I get those taro taco shells?
Johnny Iuzzini & Jackie Lau
Iuzzini & Lau had the fanciest technique by incorporating molecular gastronomy into their dishes. Iuzzini served shave ice with candied tuna and tropical textures. Yes, candied tuna. Hands down the most controversial dish of the morning.
Jackie Lau went with a Kona lobster tostada with caviar, finger limes, sweet Ho Farms tomato and Naked Cow cheese. Indulgent indeed, and it came paired with a chili pepper vodka shot that nearly brought me to tears.
Students from University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific showed up in full force to help the master chefs.
They were also serving some intricate Bloody Mary’s and tropical Mimosa’s.
Who won the Battle of the Brunch Showdown? Home town favorites, Lee Anne Wong and Sven Ulrich. Wish you were there to try the frosted flake encrusted French Toast? No worries, you could always head on over to Koko Head Cafe to try it out.
Of course, we found some time to chat with Adam Richman. In fact, when I walked up to introduce myself, he immediately started talking about how he loved my shirt. He had a real kick out of the “ice cap” nod. He even pulled his mom aside to point it out. Instinctively, I redirected the conversation toward his vintage blue and white polyester aloha shirt. I even pinched his tummy (don’t ask). He proceeded to tell me the story of his vintage aloha shirt. He’s a chatter, that Adam.
We had a great time at the Battle of the Brunch. Here’s to hoping that the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival brings this event back (and Adam) next year.