Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor
No-one had to ask ‘where’s the beef’ Friday evening at the 15th annual ‘Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural Festival.’ It was on plates all across the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
One hundred Big Island culinary students, along with more than 30 chefs from top resorts and restaurants, served up delicacies and treats made from local grass-fed beef, pork, lamb and even goat, and local produce and products.
Joy Muranaka, who works in the pastry department at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, was busy preparing plates featuring top sirloin.
“This has been a wonderful day. It’s always a lot more fun when we get to meet so many different people and try all the different dishes,” she said. “It’s like a culinary excursion.”
Chef Ed Kenney of Town restaurant in Kaimuki, Oahu, was roasting up some goat sausages. The line of hungry tasters snaked across the plaza, as Kenney’s booth seemed to attract the most people.
“This is fantastic. It’s the best event of the year,” he said. “Great atmosphere, great people, great cause, everything.”
Kenney said he appreciated the opportunities the event provides.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people, really liked the workshops and can’t wait for the farmer’s market market visit tomorrow,” he said.
“Despite the economy, business has been good,” he said. “That shows people do want to spend their money where it stays in the local economy. That’s the main goal.”
Culinary Institute of the Pacific had 100 students – 25 from Kona, 75 from Hilo – helping out of the event.
Second-year Kona student Daniel Cody said was excited to sample all the dishes.
“I really enjoy this event. It has a great energy,” he said. “It’s good exposure for students who one day will be looking for a job. Getting to meet the top chefs and having people in the industry come up to meet you, is just great.
Cody said he spent much of last year’s event tucked away, cooking and preparing dishes. This year, he was helping serve up plates.
“I like being the guy out front,” he said. “Sure, there is pressure, but everyone stresses in their own way. I thrive on it. I’m having a great time.”
Chef Willie Trask said he was impressed with the enthusiasm and passion shown by the culinary students.
He also said he was pleased that local hotels and resorts are starting to buy local, while ranchers, farmers and growers are beginning to realize they need to support each other in their efforts to further the island’s food sustainability.
Recognized for 15 years attendance at the festival was Kuhio Grille.
Among the restaurants and resorts recognized for 10 years attendance at the festival:
* Cafe Pesto Hilo
* Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel
* Hilton Waikoloa Village
Besides offering delicious “tastes” of dishes using locally produced, grass-fed meats and fresh fruits and veggies, the event also gave attendees the opportunity to meet the people who grow the food.
The event originated in Waimea, where the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) rides the range and greened-over volcanic cindercones are dotted with grazing cattle. Waimea is also home to the Mealani Research Station, a statewide leader in the development of Hawaii’s grass-fed beef industry — plus other healthy food system crops such as green tea and blueberries.
Evolving over the last 15 years with a variety of events — Mealani Forage Field Day, cooking 101 seminars and an ag industry trade show — Taste of the Hawaiian Range continues to share the importance of creating a Big Island livestock production system that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.
While it markets local products by hooking up producers with users, such as chefs and consumers, Taste also enables producers to get instant product feedback and network with other industry members.
– Find out more:
Taste of the Hawaiian Range: www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.co…