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Sit-down dinner at Mauna Kea Beach hotel kicks off Hawaii Food and Wine Festival


Chefs and foodies celebrated the return of the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection on Friday, October 1.

About 140 people attended a sit-down dinner on the resort’s luau grounds for the festival’s first event, Pele and Poli’ahu. Treated to a six-course meal, the menu offered a variety of local cuisine.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the festival’s founders to cancel the event in 2020. However, they were able to bring it back for its 11th year on a smaller scale. On Friday evening, event CEO and co-founder Denise Yamaguchi said she believes this year’s festival stays true to its mission of highlighting local agriculture and promoting sustainability.

“We are always committed to this,” Yamaguchi said. “When we talk about Hawai’i, we want it to be portrayed in the right way.”

The pandemic, Yamaguchi said, has focused on the mālama ‘āina (caring for the earth) festival. In doing so, they decided to partner with non-profit organizations that focus on protecting the land and the people of Hawaii.


Festival events kicked off with chefs from across the country learning about the cultural significance of kalo (taro). To do this, the five chiefs visited the five-acre Kapapa Lo’i o Keali’ikua’āina taro plot in the Waipi’o Valley. The patch is owned and operated by the nonprofit Kū A Kanaka.


“Being able to slow down (the festival) and dive deeper into showcasing sustainability and culture meant a lot,” she said. “We are very happy with the result. “

Chef Michael Ginor presented the third course of the evening, “Torchon of Hudson Valley Foie Gras”.

Ginor has participated in the festival since its inception. This year has been different in that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang over everything, forcing last-minute adaptations.


Originally, Ginor said he had to create a dish for a drop-in event for 500 guests. This has been reduced to a sit-down dinner for 140 people.

What makes the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival special is not just the location, but the founders, Roy and Denise Yamaguchi, Ginor said, adding that they were finding different ways to involve chefs in the process. Hawaiian culture.

“Coming to Hawai’i is a huge cultural and educational experience,” said the chef.

Ginor said it was unique for a food festival to exceed five years. He credits the success of the event to the co-founders.

“These events allow us to interact with each other,” Ginor said. “It allows us to come together and share thoughts and ideas. “

At the end of the evening, the chefs were raised and introduced to dinner. Chef Robert Del Grande of Houston, Texas created the second course of the evening, Hawaiian Octopus.

It was his 10th year participating in the festival. When it comes to the annual event, he says, he likes to pair his Southwestern cuisine with that of Hawaii.

Like Ginor, he was also delighted that the festival was rescheduled, amid the looming pandemic.

“When the going is tough it’s always good to come home,” Del Grande said, adding, “Every time I come here it feels like I’m coming home.”

Chef Jason Neroni, from Venice, Calif., Has been attending the festival for five years now. He created the fourth course of the evening, the Hawaiian BBQ Shrimp.

“It’s a pleasure and an honor to come to Hawai’i and show what we can do,” said Neroni.

The California chef thinks the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival is one of the best food festivals in the world.

“Back home, it has become a tradition to come here with our family,” said Neroni.

Chef Edward Lee, of Louisville, Ky., Delivered the fifth Kalbi Jjim Beef Course with Taro and Hōio. It was his first time at the festival.

“I haven’t taken a vacation for a year and a half; I am here and I may never leave, ”said Lee.

Festival organizers followed state COVID-19 health and safety guidelines set by local and state officials.

Two local chefs also participated in the event. Ryan Brannigan, Chef of Manta at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, presented the first course focused on Hawaiian kanpachi and Kona abalone.

The final dish was dessert and created by Michael Moorehouse, chef at Mauna Kea Resort. The guests were treated to a citrus pavlova.

Officials said the safety of guests was a top priority while being mindful of public sentiment, especially with Governor David Ige’s further extension of restrictions on Friday.

Click on here for the program of events throughout the festival.

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