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Showcasing Hawaii’s Food, Fish, Farmers | Table Talk | Midweek.com

Showcasing Hawaii’s Food, Fish, Farmers

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 16, 2011
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Roy Yamaguchi is hard at work judging a dish

Twenty years ago, when Hawaii’s Regional Cuisine movement was born, it was a defining moment in our culinary history. I believe we’re at the crossroads of another. As islanders dependent on others for most of our food, we need to take the issue of sustainability seriously. And again, it’s chefs - some of the same ones who raised the awareness of island agriculture 20 years ago - who are poised to start a 21st century food revolution. They’re doing it in a fun way, but when the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival debuts Sept. 29, it will carry an underlying serious message.

“Hawaii needs and deserves this event,” says Roy Yamaguchi, who along with co-founder Alan Wong is spearheading the three-day extravaganza of food and wine that will take place at Hilton Hawaiian Village, Halekulani and The Edition.

“It’s about showcasing Hawaii - our food, our fish and our farmers,” he says, “and it’s something we have to do to bring attention to it. We need to do this to make sure that we are continually less reliant on imported food. People need to become more aware.”

With a considerable grant from HTA, and an abundance of sponsors already on board (and many more clamoring to join the party), the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is poised to increase awareness of the Islands as a global food destination, and hopefully start a chain of events not unlike the ones that happened 20 years ago. With no shortage of celebrity chefs and winemakers in attendance, and the inclusion of farmers, fishermen and chefs from all islands, the event is one you don’t want to miss.


I’ve promised not to reveal too much about the impressive list of celebrities, but a few notable guests will be Hubert Keller, Tetsuya Wakida, “Iron” Chef Morimoto and Alex Stratta.

Drumming up support and organizing chefs is keeping the already busy Yamaguchi on his toes.

“Oh, yeah,” he says with trademark grin when asked about the hectic pace. “Every minute, day and night right now we’re trying to organize this thing.”

But as you might imagine, when Yamaguchi or Alan Wong picks up the phone and asks chef friends to come to Hawaii to help, the response is overwhelmingly positive. That’s been part of the fun for Yamaguchi.

“We’ve got people coming from everywhere - from Asia, from Canada, from the Mainland - and of course we’re focusing on our Hawaii chefs too. The whole thing is a showcase for Hawaii.”

Bringing the message of sustainability to all is the ultimate goal, and proceeds will benefit the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation and culinary students in the Islands.


“It’s about food and beverage,” says Yamaguchi, “but at the core this is a very cultural event. In Hawaii, the two go hand-in-hand.”

If you want to help, but you’re not in the industry, there’s an easy way to make sure that this first year is a resounding success.

“We need people to come out, to buy tickets,” says Yamaguchi.

A website is in the works, and more information about tickets and events will be available shortly. But while the three-day event will undoubtedly be cheerful, it’s unlikely to be cheap. When asked about (as yet) undisclosed ticket prices for top tables at the gala dinners, Yamaguchi simply smiled and said, “Tell everybody save up.”

Happy eating!

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