San Francisco Chef Richie Nakano shows off his saimin dish at the Maui County Ag Fest live cook-off event as Maui Chef Jeff Scheer looks on. Nakano was the only chef to use Spam in a dish.
MAUI, HAWAII — Despite its rich soil and tropical, year-round growing season, Hawaii actually imports about 90 percent of its food. To promote a growing trend toward locavorism, the Maui County Farm Bureau has hosted its Maui County Ag Festival for the past eight years.
For the fourth time, I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest judge for the event by the Maui Visitors Bureau.
The all-day event on April 4 drew hundreds to the Maui Tropical Plantation to eat, drink, and mingle with chefs and farmers. A lively farmers market gave folks the chance to buy Maui-grown strawberry papayas, avocados, apple bananas and even hand-pounded poi.
An assortment of food trucks made sure there was no shortage of food. In fact, I hate to admit that my day consisted of: Pigging out at Chef Kyle Kawakami’s Maui Fresh Streatery Gourmet Food Truck, which changes its menu according to the local ingredients available each week; followed by judging 12 dishes prepared by chefs in the live cook-off; then judging another 12 dishes in the Grand Taste event, where each chef had to make a dish spotlighting an ingredient grown by a local farm.
Maui Fresh Streatery truck.
The truck’s poutine topped with Maui Cattle Co. braised short ribs.
My eating didn’t end there, either. Even though I vowed I was done after that, I somehow ended up at the chefs after-party at Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Migrant restaurant, where plate after plate descended upon the table in a non-stop parade.