‘Kaanapali Fresh’ is agri-tourism at its best
KAANAPALI – Agriculture is Maui’s second-largest industry, which feeds tourism, our leading industry. A thriving agricultural industry is at the core of agri-tourism, providing community education and visitor entertainment while featuring Maui as a culinary destination.
West Maui is privileged to have an event that showcases the best qualities of our agricultural and hospitality industries: “Kaanapali Fresh.”
Presented by Kaanapali Beach Resort Association in partnership with Maui County Farm Bureau, “Kaanapali Fresh” spotlights Kaanapali as the optimum place for farm-to-table cuisine.
On Friday, Aug. 30, and Saturday, Aug. 31, Kaanapali chefs and Maui farmers will combine talents to create dining experiences featuring Grown on Maui ingredients.
Ho’opono Farm in Napili, one of the West Side’s new all-natural farms, will be paired with multiple chefs. Owners Dave Horsman and Manu Akana both have a background in West Maui’s hospitality industry and a vision of sustainability for the future. They leased acreage on the upper slopes of Mauna Kahalawai and began terracing, irrigating and planting two years ago.
“We’re happy to be part of ‘Ka’anapali Fresh’ in this new food movement, putting chefs and farmers together. Everything we plant is by special order from West Maui chefs,” explained Horsman. “Ninety percent of the West Side chefs are in on making this change to their menus and how they cook to fit what farmers are growing.”
Ho’opono Farm grows a culinary mix of carrots in a colorful palette: Cosmic Purple, White Satin and Stellar Yellow. These torpedo-shaped roots have creamy, sweet and tangy flavors that chefs can incorporate into a variety of dishes. The farm has also made a name for itself in robust, flavorful cherry tomatoes and heirloom Black Cherokee tomatoes. They’re getting ready to plant sweet onions, too.
As they prepare more land, Horsman and Akana experiment with different types of produce and planting styles. In their “alley cropping,” combining forestry and vegetables, produce is planted in alleys, and native koa seedlings are planted on top.
This summer, in the farm’s nonprofit educational program ‘Aina Haumana (Students of the Land), kids began planting koa. A veritable “Koa Army” is what Horsman envisions as a core group of kids who will help teach more youth about sustainable farming and growing food as they move from elementary to high school.
He said, “Through ‘Aina Haumana, we can help everyone in the school system as well as under-served kids. ‘Grow Farmers’ is our mission.”
Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu, an Italian Grill at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas (KOR) is a founder and staunch supporter of ‘Aina Haumana. He works with students at the farm and helps them cook their harvest in the restaurant, demonstrating that healthy foods do taste good.
“Hawaii needs to support itself; it’s the right thing to do. So when the opportunity arose to support Ho’opono Farm and its ‘Aina Haumana program, I wanted to make sure we got involved,” noted Holder. “Our guests are interested in supporting the local community. Ho’opono has a good product and is working hard to address the needs of the food industry and Hawaii’s resources for the future.”
Chef Wes is planning two innovative dishes with ingredients grown in West Maui for the “Ka’anapali 5-0” Food & Wine Festival on Saturday. He has cured ahi in the Bresaola style and air dried it for 30 days. Hawaiian Nicoise Salad with Ahi Bresaola features Blue Lake beans, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggs, arugula and a mint vinaigrette with anchovy. He’ll also prepare a house-made bacon risotto topped with creamy fresh Buratta mozzarella and roasted Black Cherokee tomatoes.
At last year’s inaugural event, Holder won the “Kaanapali Fresh” Gold Award for Molokai Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
Earlier this year, Executive Chef Chris Schobel of Hula Grill and Corporate Chef Scott McGill of TS Restaurants won the 2013 Friend of Agriculture award for supporting ag in Maui County. They instituted the Growing Future Farmers program for Hula Grill and Duke’s Kaanapali. For every local salad sold, a portion of the proceeds is donated to Maui County Farm Bureau for scholarships.
Chef Chris is known for buying organic local produce and experimenting with his menus. He likes to say, “What’s the Earth given us today?” He feels that local produce is worth its weight in gold – the flavor and quality are so good, you don’t need to use as much.
Chef Scott supports local farms by encouraging all Maui TS Restaurants to buy from them, noting, “We can support our farmers four times more.”
“The chef-farmer relationship is strongest on Maui,” McGill said. “We encourage farmers to grow what we can use and stress getting the quantity up. The seed is planted and is starting to grow with Ho’opono Farm and others.”
On Saturday at “Ka’anapali 5-O,” the two chefs will serve Kauai Shrimp Chow Fun with locally made ramen noodles, Ho’opono Farm veggies and truffle Kabayaki sauce. Kona Kampachi Tartare will feature Napili AquaFlo micro greens and Ho’opono taro chips.
The Westin KOR’s executive chef, Francois Milliet, is a co-chair for “Kaanapali Fresh” and member of the Grown on Maui Committee. The members come up with ways to get chefs and farmers together, so farmers can grow produce that chefs will buy and use.
“Farmers tell us their challenges, and we come up with solutions. We want to have them growing all the time, so we can always use local produce, especially the staples,” said Milliet. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”
For the “Progressive Kaanapali” dining adventure on Friday, Chef Francois will be locally sourcing ingredients. His Kona Kampachi with fish farm-raised on Hawaii Island is smoked and served with Ho’opono Farm veggies. He’s also serving Asparagus Quiche with Neighborhood Farm eggs and MauiGrown Coffee foam.
Explore “Ka’anapali Fresh” events this weekend and discover West Maui’s hidden gem farms and culinary creativity. For details and tickets, visit www.kaanapalifresh.com.