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Farmers and locavore chefs to offer bold new dining experience

By Staff | Mar 21, 2013

Farmers Manu Akana (left) and Dave Horsman of Ho‘o Pono Farm flank Executive Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu, An Italian Grill at the Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. The trio will joins 11 other farmer-chef teams at this year’s Grand Taste Education at the Maui County Ag Festival on April 6. Their main ingredient is English peas, and their dish will be Risi Bisi-English peas, parmigiano risotto and mint pesto, pea tendril salad. PHOTO BY STEVE BRINKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY.

WAILUKU – Grand Taste Education, the centerpiece of the sixth annual Maui County Ag Festival, will provide the chance to experience a tasting menu that features a dozen new creations. Attendees can also cast votes for their fan favorite.

The event on Saturday, April 6, will pair 12 Maui farmers and their select produce with 12 of Maui’s hottest chefs, including chefs from West Maui: Isaac Bancaco of Pineapple Grill; Neil Murphy of Merriman’s Kapalua; Jojo Vasquez of Plantation House; Riko Bartolome of Asia-Vous; Wesley Holder of Pulehu, An Italian Grill; Sheldon Simeon from Star Noodle; and Chris Schobel and Ryan Luckey from Hula Grill.

This year, the assignment is to take an item that might usually be served as a side dish and reinvent it as an entree.

Some of the featured products include escargot, carrots, breadfruit (ulu), peas, beets, papayas, cauliflower and taro.

The result will be a delightful dining experience that combines the best of Maui’s harvest prepared by the Valley Isle’s most talented food professionals.

Admission is $25 per person; go to agfest2013.eventbrite.com or www.slowfoodmaui.org for tickets.

Tickets purchased after April 1-6 cost $30 per person. There is a limited number of tickets; advance purchase is suggested.

The tasting runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each entree is presented at its own individual “farm stand” tasting station. Guests are invited to “graze” – eat standing or go into the Grand Taste tent and relax in the shaded seating.

Grand Taste Education is presented by the Maui County Farm Bureau in partnership with Slow Food Maui, a local chapter of Slow Food USA, 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.

Take some time to learn more about the Slow Food Maui movement and the many activities planned throughout the year.

New this year is a live culinary competition with Maui-grown coffee as the key ingredient. Sponsored by Rim Fire, the “Chefs’ Challenge” is free and open to the public on the main stage from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

Chef Simeon and Chef Perry Bateman of Mama’s Fish House will keep time, co-emcee and coordinate the judging with other distinguished food experts.

Simeon was recently a finalist on the “Top Chef” TV series and dubbed the “Hawaiian Care Bear” by the Hollywood Reporter.

Peter Merriman, who has served as Grand Taste Education advisor since its inception in 2008, joins Mark Ellman of Mala, Honu Maui and Penne Pasta Cafe; John Cadman, food service manager of Kamehameha Schools Maui; and award-winning food and travel writers Carolyn Jung and Cinda Chiva on the judges’ stand.

The challenge is followed by the annual Grand Taste Education awards presentation for Judges’ Choice, Fan-Favorite and Top Ag Chef.