KAANAPALI - On Saturday, May 4, Whalers Village Shops & Restaurants will host the Maui Onion Festival, an event that showcases the Valley Isle's own signature crop.
Now in its 24th year, the festival is more dynamic than ever. It continues to stimulate the creativity of Maui's leading chefs and draw crowds for free culinary samples.
The festival offers residents and visitors the opportunity to learn about Maui's most famous vegetable with an all-day schedule that turns the spotlight on onions.
Mark Urquidi of Roy’s Restaurant in Kaanapali has advanced into the Maui Onion Challenge Finals scheduled for 10:30 a.m. during the Maui Onion Festival at Whalers Village on Saturday, May 4. PHOTO BY STEVE BRINKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY.
Festivities also include music and entertainment at center stage and the beach front lawn. The day begins at 9:45 a.m. and won't end until after dark.
The Maui Onion Challenge - a popular adjunct to the festival - is a contest to showcase chefs from Kaanapali restaurants engaging in a friendly competition to see who can create the best Maui Onion dish.
After a semifinal competition narrowed the field, four chefs will participate in a cook-off at the Maui Onion Festival. Beginning at 10:30 a.m., a panel of judges will score the four entries. The first place winner will be announced at noon on center stage.
Up to May 5, the participating chefs will offer their onion specials to their customers in a variety of forms, including appetizer, entre and salad.
Slated for 4:30 p.m. at center stage, the well-established, educationally mesmerizing Maui Onion Recipe Contest asks celebrity chefs from Maui and Oahu to demonstrate their creative culinary skills step-by-step. Judges subsequently rate each dish.
With past winners returning to reclaim their spot and Maui's own Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle, a "Top Chef" Season Ten finalist, in the event, the bar has been raised.
The contest will welcome back Jojo Vasquez, who claimed the top prize last year for his delicate dish of Liver with Maui Kula Onions, and James McDonald, celebrated for his Upcountry Ravioli in 2010.
The chef demonstration schedule includes Kevin Hanney from SALT at 10 a.m., Chris Kulis of Capische? at 10:45 a.m., McDonald of Pacific'o and I'o restaurants at 11:30 a.m., Vasquez of The Plantation House at 12:15 p.m., Simeon of Star Noodle at 1 p.m. and Nick Mastrascusa of Ulu Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at 1:45 p.m.
Throughout the day, Ramsey Wharton from Hawaii News Now will serve as emcee.
At 2:30 p.m., the lively Mix Drink Contest returns. The ever-popular Keiki Maui Onion Eating Contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m., followed by the adults at 4 p.m. at center stage.
For great entertainment, head to the beach stage. An early morning Polynesian Hula show starts at 10 a.m., followed by a delicious smoothie demo.
Later, listen to Scotty Rotten, Benoit Jazz Works, Barefoot Minded, Riddim of Knowledge and the J.D. on the Rocks Band.
Throughout Whalers Village, food booths and vendors will showcase value-added onion products. Other kinds of Maui foods will also be available.
If you just can't get enough of those sweet Maui Onions, mark your calendar for Friday, May 3, when Hula Grill Kaanapali hosts the annual Maui Onion Pairing Dinner. This splendid, four-course meal will feature a variety of onion dishes paired with handcrafted beer produced by Maui Brewing Co. Tickets are available at Hula Grill.
Bargreen Ellingson, Maui Brewing Co. and the Royal Lahaina Resort are sponsors of the 24th annual Maui Onion Festival.