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Maui Part II: The Island’s Bountiful Agriculture and Aquaculture

Friday, 26. April 2013 5:27

Snails -- being raised for escargot and other gourmet dishes -- on an urban Maui farm.

Snails — being raised for escargot and other gourmet dishes — on an urban Maui farm.

Napili FLO Farm

If former massage therapist Monica Bogar has her way, Maui restaurants will some day spotlight organic snails on their menus.

After all, there’s already a waiting list of restaurants eager for the mollusks she is growing aquaponically in ingenious systems devised by her and her Uncle Tony. I had a chance to visit their homestead on the west side of the island, during my trip to Maui, courtesy of the tourism and conventioner’s bureau.

An urban farmer for the past 12 years, Bogar started her Napili FLO Farm a year ago. She now sells her microgreens, edible flowers and watercress to Maui restaurants such as Star Noodle, Hula Grill, and Pineapple Grill, the latter where Isaac Bancaco is chef and a huge supporter of hers.

Monica Bogar and Chef Isaac Bancaco inspect one of Bogar's aquaponics systems.

Monica Bogar and Chef Isaac Bancaco inspect one of Bogar’s aquaponics systems.

Pick you way through Uncle Tony’s backyard to find a miraculous series of tanks — built from scavenged items, including styrofoam boxes, old fish tanks and a grandson’s former wash tub. “We are aquaponics dumpster-divers,” Bogar says proudly with a chuckle.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Fruit, General, Going Green and Sustainable, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (9) | Author:

Maui Part I: Take Five with Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle on Life Post-“Top Chef”

Wednesday, 24. April 2013 5:25

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

 

To say that life has changed for Chef Sheldon Simeon would be an understatement.

After placing third in this season’s “Top Chef’’ competition on Bravo TV and winning over viewers to be named “Fan Favorite,’’ business has doubled at his already popular Star Noodle restaurant on Maui. Fans, tourists and locals alike now brave as much as a two-hour wait to get into the out of the way restaurant that serves creative pan-Asian street food such as Vietnamese crepes, and all manner of ramen, soba and saimin noodles – 100 pounds in total hand-made every day on site by one tiny, elderly woman whom Simeon affectionately calls “auntie.’’

The crowds at the other restaurant he oversees, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, aren’t too shabby, either.

When I visited Maui earlier this month as a guest of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, I had a chance to sit down with Simeon at Star Noodle, where in between answering questions, he’d graciously accommodate the many diners who wanted to pose for photos with him. The 30-year-old chef, husband and father of three young daughters who was born on the Big Island, chatted about the impact the television show has had on his career that began humbly enough as a restaurant dishwasher.

Q: Why did you want to do “Top Chef’’?

A: I could see the opportunity it brings. It’s been overwhelming at times, but also a blessing. It was a chance for me to represent Hawaii. I wanted to test myself.

Q: What was the hardest part about doing the show?

A: Every challenge was hard. As a chef, I work alone on a dish. If I’m not satisfied with it, I don’t put it out. But on the show, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m serving this to Wolfgang Puck!’

StarNoodleSign

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after "Top Chef'' aired.

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after “Top Chef” aired.

Q: Did you practice in any way to prepare for the challenges?

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Category:"Take Five'' Q&A, Chefs, Food TV, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (18) | Author:

Scenes from Chefs’ Holidays, Part II: With Lucques, Peet’s, CulinAriane and Wilshire

Tuesday, 29. January 2013 5:25

The grand dining room at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — You may know that Chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques, AOC, the Tavern and the Larder, all in Los Angeles, is married to Chef David Lentz of The Hungry Cat in Los Angeles.

But you might not know exactly how the two met.

I knew part of the story, but not all of the details — until I asked Goin about it when I was the moderator for her cooking demo at the 28th annual Chefs’ Holidays event at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Thankfully, she was a good enough sport to spill the beans before a rapt audience.

Chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques on the demo stage.

“So, Suzanne…” I asked, “David just happened to be dining at Lucques. And your sister just happened to be dining next to him that night? And the two of them just started talking?”

Goin chuckled and said, “There’s a part of the story that David doesn’t like me to tell, so don’t tell him I’m telling you all this. He thinks it makes him sound like a stalker.”

Suzanne Goin's curried cauliflower with roasted carrots and tahini yogurt.

She went on to explain that in 1999, she was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs.” She appeared on the cover with the other honored chefs. She was the only woman among them.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Food TV, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (5) | Author:

Scenes from Chefs’ Holidays, Part I: With Sons & Daughters, The Meatball Shop and The Hungry Cat

Monday, 28. January 2013 5:25

Seared albacore with yogurt, dates and blood orange by Chef David Lentz of The Hungry Cat.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Serene, peaceful and magical. That’s what it’s like here in this winter wonderland.

But inside the grand Ahwahnee Hotel, the national historic landmark that opened in 1927, it’s a hive of activity at this time of year, as some of the most noted chefs from around the country make a pilgrimage here to give demos and to cook gala dinners for the public.

Yours truly was honored to be invited to be the host for two of the sessions last week for the 28th annual Chefs’ Holidays, which takes place each year throughout the month of January.

For the chefs, it’s always a fun time. They bring their spouses and kids to make a working holiday of it. For some of the chefs, it was a return visit. For others, it was their first time to Yosemite.

The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. When it opened in 1927, rooms could be had for $5-$50.

Yosemite Falls.

All of them pulled off their demos like the pros that they are. You’d never know how nervous a few were before they took the stage. One chef said he started prepping extra early because he was so jittery he couldn’t sleep the night before. Another chef said she’d rather cook three gala dinners in a row than do one cooking demo because she always gets so anxious beforehand.

(L to R): Matt McNamara of Sons & Daughters; Duncan Holmes, chef de cuisine of Sons & Daughters; Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop; David Lentz of The Hungry Cat; and Lentz's son.

Matt McNamara, co-chef and co-founder of Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, kicked off the session by demonstrating how to make “Squab with Marcona Almond Puree, Pickled Fennel, and Citrus” and “Roasted Baby Beets with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Vadauvan.”

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Travel Adventures | Comments (10) | Author:

Eating My Way Through Montreal in the Fall, Part II

Wednesday, 12. December 2012 5:25

A magnificent steelhead trout with caviar, yogurt and dill "sponge'' cake at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal.

MONTREAL, CANADA — One of the best meals I had in this city wasn’t where I thought it would be. It wasn’t in some storied white-tablecloth establishment that had been around for generations. Nor was it in some hip, counter-culture cafe headed by the latest bad boy-chef.

No, it was inside a museum, of all places.

The Musee D’Art Contemporain de Montreal boasts an impressive collection of modern Quebec art. It also has a restaurant worth seeking out, thanks to its young, self-taught chef, Antonin Mousseau-Rivard.

That Mousseau-Rivard is a chef at a museum is only apropos. After all, his grandfather, Jean-Paul Mousseau, was a famed artist whose works are part of the museum’s permanent exhibit, “A Matter of Abstraction.”

What the younger Mousseau-Rivard puts on the plate is equally a work of art — not only in looks, but in flavor and imagination.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (9) | Author: