Jim Denevan

Christina O'Connor
Wednesday - January 04, 2012
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Photo by Andrea Wyner

Now a well-known chef and the founder of the traveling farm dinner series, Outstanding in the Field (OitF), Jim Denevan took his first restaurant job as a teenager in Northern California. But it was more convenience than passion that fueled his early days in the kitchen: The young Denevan liked the restaurant world because he could work nights and surf during the day. During his mid-20s, he lived in Italy and France for two years. His time there sparked his love for cooking and an interest in the origins of food.

“For me, what was interesting about food was the sources of the ingredients,” Denevan says. “And I think that’s how I stuck with cooking ... just the stories of the people and the food.”

He returned the United States and worked as a chef. In 1999 he launched OitF, which partners with local chefs and farmers to create outdoor dining events with the mission of reconnecting diners with the land. Since 2004, the group has been traveling the Mainland by bus and has hosted events throughout the country. This month, OitF makes its first visit to Hawaii.

As Denevan explains, OitF “brings the backstory of food to the forefront.” The majority of its dinners are held on farms, and guest chefs prepare meals from ingredients that are grown right there.

“It starts with highlighting the farmers and their contributions, and honoring them, and also celebrating farmers and farms right where the food comes from,” Denevan says. He feels that it’s important for diners to think about their food and consider its source, and whether the animals were treated humanely. That type of backstory, he says, is part of the taste of food.

“I think it’s good for people to be connected to the land and understand how the land nurtures us,” he says, “and to be separated from that is just not good for people.” Not only do people at OitF dinners get to taste fresh, local foods, but they also learn about the preparation process. Events include a tour of the farm, where guests have the opportunity to learn about what the farmer is growing and what type of foods are specific to an area.

The Oahu dinner is hosted by Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth of MA’O Organic Farms, and the guest chef is Ed Kenney of town and Downtown. It starts at 3 p.m. at MA’O Organic Farms in Waianae. Tickets cost $190 each. The dinner is almost sold out; purchasing tickets as soon as possible is recommended. Dinners also will take place this month on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit outstandinginthefield.com.

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