Mahi Pono and the Hawaii Meals & Wine Pageant Host Groundbreaking Cooks’ Nook Undertaking

A blessing ceremony for Mahi Pono and the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival (HFWF) broke new ground this morning at Mahi Pono’s central farm in Maui. In attendance was Mahi Pono, cooks and leaders from HFWF, and several Maui community leaders. Photo by JD Pells.

A blessing ceremony for Mahi Pono and the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival broke new ground this morning at Mahi Pono Farm in central Maui.

The ceremony welcomed a new partnership between local chefs and farmers that had been in the making for over a year, the Chefs’ Corner Project.

“Our collaboration with HWFW on the Chefs’ Corner Project is a new and innovative way to close the producer-to-table gap even further while promoting food sustainability in Hawaii,” said Shan Tsutsui, Chief Operating Officer of Mahi Pono.

Event interviews. Video courtesy of Mahi Pono. Edited by Wendy Osher.

Chefs’ Corner gives five local chefs a quarter acre each to grow fresh ingredients for their Maui restaurants. Each chef chose his own varied selection of grains.

So far, the project has included top local chefs Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Kā’anapali, Humble Market Kitchin), Beverly Ganon (Hāli’imaile General Store, Gannon’s Restaurant and Celebrations Catering), Chris Kajioka (Waicoco), Scott McGill (TS Restaurants – Duke’s, Hula Grill, Kimo’s and Leilanis) and Lee Anne Wong (Papa’āina).

Cooks and executives surrounded a Bible as three prayers were recited Thursday morning in Hawaii.  Photo by JD Pells.Cooks and executives surrounded a Bible as three prayers were recited Thursday morning in Hawaii. Photo by JD Pells.

THE ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW THE ADVERT

The partner chefs have the first opportunity to buy all the products that are grown on their plots. All available surpluses are sold under Mahi Pano’s Maui Harvest label.

Roy Yamaguchi’s garden. Photo by JD Pells.

THE ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW THE ADVERT

“It’s been a long journey,” said Chef Roy Yamaguchi after the ceremony. “Since the Hawai’i Regional Cuisine Movement, when chefs came together to work with farmers 30 years ago, our whole vision has been for chefs to work with farmers and grow the ingredients we want to see on our menu.”

The new opportunity also reminded Yamaguchi of his family history, as he used to work in his grandfather’s grocery store as Keiki on Maui.

“That was what was on the shelves when my grandfather had his market,” said Yamaguchi.

Chef Roy Yamaguchi spoke at the blessing ceremony in Chef's Corner on Thursday morning.  Photo by JD Pells.Chef Roy Yamaguchi spoke at the Chefs’ Corner blessing ceremony Thursday morning. Photo by JD Pells.THE ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW THE ADVERT

“People say you can taste the sun,” Waicoco Chef Chris Kajioka said of Chefs’ Corner. “You can taste the sun when things are fresh, so this is a great opportunity for all of us.”

Kajioka said this was “really the best scenario,” adding, “I think it’s every chef’s dream to have access to something curated and specific about what you love to cook and eat.”

Chef Beverly Gannon (right) just after prayer.  Photo by JD Pells.Chef Beverly Gannon (right) shortly after the prayers. Photo by JD Pells.

The ceremony took place on a piece of Mahi Pono land designated for diverse agriculture.

“What we’re looking at today is a variety trial with lettuce in warm climates because we’re always told that we can’t grow lettuce very well in the warm areas of Maui,” said Strand. “We have selected a few varieties that actually do well here.”

Mahi Pono plans to continue growing these experimental crops such as kale, broccolini, lettuce, corn, green beans, and carrots, as well as consistent seasonal crops for the locals.

“The concept of what we are doing on a larger scale here is to address the problem of bringing local food to the local people,” said Mahi Pono, vice president of agriculture and business development, Darren Strand.

A blessing ceremony for Mahi Pono and the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival (HFWF) broke new ground this morning at Mahi Pono’s central farm in Maui. Photo by JD Pells.

Mahi Pono owns and operates approximately 41,000 acres of agricultural land in Central Maui that was formerly sugar cane and cattle land but was revitalized in a year and a half process that included soil rejuvenation, irrigation, and wind protection.

The Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival is the premier event for food lovers in the Pacific. The festival includes a list of more than 150 internationally renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, sommeliers, mixologists, and wine and spirits producers.

Comments are closed.