WAIKAPU - This year, Maui agriculture, education and hospitality will come together in unprecedented ways to present the edibles that are Grown on Maui.
Maui's farmers, ranchers and fishermen will pair with chefs and presenters to cook up a series of full-flavor programs, because menus matter. Residents and visitors also want to know exactly why they matter.
This will all happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the fifth annual Maui County Ag Festival scheduled on Saturday, April 7, on the luau grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation.
The 2012 Grand Taste Education farmers and chefs include (from left): front — Alika Atay of Maui Sweet Potato Co. with Jojo Vasquez of the Banyan Tree at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; Isaac Bancaco of Humu at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa; Joey Macadangdang of Roy’s Restaurants; Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden with Riko Bartolome and James Simpliciano; second row — David Fitch of Malama Farm with Marc McDowell of Makena Beach and Golf Resort; Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle & Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop with Bobby Pahia of Hoaloha Farms; Tylun Pang of Ko at The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui with Alex Franco of Maui Cattle Company, Scott McGill of TS Restaurants and Chris Schuber of Hula Grill. Other participants will include Jamie Shishido of J. Shishido Farm, Jennifer Nguyen, Ivan Pahk, Bill and Marta Greenleaf, Jeffery Heubschman, Wili Wood and Kekai Keahi of Loi’s of Honokohau, and Lynn and Russell DeCoite of L&R Farm on Molokai.
While the festival is free, the Grand Taste Education event is a ticket-only affair for an incredible value: $25 for 12 dishes prepared by Maui farmer and chef teams.
At Grand Taste Education, the Maui community will get to taste food that is Grown on Maui. The 12 chef/farmer volunteer teams invite you to capture the flavors of menus that are local and fresh.
For example, Jojo Vasquez, chef de cuisine for Banyan Tree at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, will partner with Alika Atay of Maui Sweet Potato Company for ube macapuno ice cream made with purple Okinawan sweet potatoes.
It's eggplant parmigiani for Ho'o Pono Farm and Chef Wesley Holder of The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.
Private chef Riko Bartolome will work with Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute to whip up pan-fried smoked salmon-'ulu cakes.
Cole will also talk about breadfruit on stage. The institute - where he serves as curator and collection manager - promotes the conservation and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation and manages the largest collection of breadfruit in the world, conserving over 120 varieties from throughout the Pacific.
Think sustainability is an elusive and overused concept? James Beard Award-winning Chef Alan Wong will explore with his audience what a sustainable Maui really means.
The lineup at the Grand Taste Education stage also includes Garrett W. Marrero of the award-winning Maui Brewing Co. He will share how one company can make a difference for Maui ag.
Marrero will talk about his experiences concerning the potential for agricultural growth through responsible business practices and collaboration.
Grand Taste Education is presented in partnership with Slow Food Maui, a local chapter of Slow Food U.S.A., which envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet.
Peter Merriman serves the chef advisor, Chris Speere and the students of the Maui Culinary Academy donate their time and talent to assist the farmer/chef teams, and Chefs Ryan Luckey, Isaac Bancaco and Riko Bartolome stepped up this year as chef coordinators.
The judges for this year's Grand Taste Education include national and international food and travel writers: Ayngelina Brogan, Carol Cain, Bonnie Friedman, Lesa Griffith, Jennifer Heigl, Carolyn Jung, Derek Paiva, Susan Russo and Jay Terauchi.
Joel Katz will provide beautiful, inspiring music throughout the day in the Grand Taste Education tent.
Don't miss the Grand Taste Education at the Maui County Ag Festival on Saturday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are available online for $25 through April 5; the price is $30 at the door. Purchase tickets online at www.mauicountyfarmbureau.org or www.slowfoodmaui.org.