Articles from August 2012

Four Seasons Chef Weighs In on Using Grass-Fed Beef

It’s been a year-and-a-half since Four Seasons Resort Hualalai instituted a sustainable grass-fed beef program that utilizes the entire animal-basically from head-to-tail. At the helm of this effort is Executive Chef James Babian, who will be leading the 2012 installment of Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 at this year’s Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range.

Chef Babian Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Executive Chef James Babian

Chef Babian, who was recognized in 2010 for his broad and exemplary use of locally grown food by the statewide Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, says using the whole animal fits into the resort’s theme of sustainability. “We want to support our local beef industry while adhering to our culinary direction of regional, seasonal and artisanal.”

Babian says it also makes financial sense as the award-winning Four Seasons Hualalai uses a lot of meat for its on-site restaurants and staff cafeteria.

This approach, of utilizing the whole animal, has more value to our local ranchers. In fact, one of the goals of Taste has been to educate chefs and attendees about the benefits of using all the different cuts of meat, including the unfamiliar ones.

“It’s been a successful experience for us,” notes Chef Babian. “We are trying different things like altering the length of time for aging the beef and using different breeds of cattle. We also continue to develop new menu items.”

Four Seasons Hualalai purchases 21- to 40-day aged, whole beef carcasses from Kulana Foods in Hilo, averaging two-to-three carcasses a month.

“Beef has lactic acid and dry-aging allows for time to break down the meat’s connective tissue to make it more tender,” explains Babian. “It also mellows the flavor.”


Lean grass-fed beef served during a banquet

Chef admits “it took awhile to figure out a system” for butchering a whole carcass of beef to best suit the resort’s needs. Beef carcasses average 750 pounds for heifers (females) to 900 pounds for steers (males).

“When we get our carcass, we pull off the best primal cuts, like the tenderloins, for our steaks and feature them as specials,” shares Chef Babian. “Our guests expect a good tasting steak and appreciate the natural benefits of grass-fed beef. They also like to experience regional foods and grass-fed beef has a distinct flavor.”

Chef says the loins are broken down into six pieces: two each for filets, prime rib, New York and rib eye, which are used in the outlets for daily specials.

“We grind the beef shoulder and brisket to make burgers for the restaurants and use the rest of the meat in stews and stir frys for the cafeteria, where we feed 500-700 people a day.”

Chef says grass-fed beef is also sourced for the resort’s banquets and Beach Tree’s Chef de Cuisine Nick Mastrascusa uses braised oxtail for ragout to go with his signature homemade gnocchi.

“Using the whole animal requires more work, more labor, but gives us an opportunity to be more creative in the kitchen,” details Babian.

For Chef Babian’s Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 class, he will demonstrate how to prepare Grilled Tri-Tip with Kiawe-Smoked Kabocha Pumpkin and Braciole de Manzo or Italian beef roll. Time is 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 and admission is $10, which includes recipe sampling. Tickets for Cooking 101 and the evening Taste are conveniently sold at

For information on dining at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, visit our website or phone 325-8000.

Find more details on Knowing the Basics of Beef Cuts, check out the Taste It blog.


Look Who’s Cookin’ at Taste of the Hawaiian Range Hilton Waikoloa Village: Executive Chef Charles Charbonneau

Chef Charles Charbonneau oversees the cuisine of the sprawling, award-winning hotel that annually serves as host to Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Aligned with Taste’s mission of encouraging and supporting locally produced ag products, Chef is passionate about sharing local ingredients on every plate possible in the resort’s many restaurants.

Tropical Fruit

Exotic dragonfruit (center) with papaya, pineapple and strawberries

He explains, “When 12 chefs started using locally grown farm produce more than 20 years ago, they could hardly have imagined the longevity of their passion for Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. Today, we reap the bounty of that vision in a stunning array of local produce brought to us by dozens of small farmers who specialize in growing the best Hawai’i Island can offer.”

The son of a Japanese mother who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII and an American father, Charles says his parents inspired him to enter the restaurant industry at an early age.

Without their early tutelage, he would not have become a chef.  Charbonneau attended the Culinary Institute of America and spent more than 18 years at Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

C Charbonneau

Hilton Waikoloa Village Executive Chef Charles Charbonneau

His tenure included serving as food and beverage “task force commander” for the opening of two Marriotts in Moscow.

Charbonneau also had the honor of being selected as President Bill Clinton’s personal chef during a 1994 summer vacation and serving for many years as the Jacksonville Jaguars chef at the annual “Taste of the NFL” prior to the Super Bowl.

“A chef is only as good as the places he has been and the things he has accomplished,” notes Charbonneau. He said his love of travel and pristine ingredients, including the world’s freshest fish, are what brought him to Hawai’i. Charbonneau is married with three children, who are his pride and joy.

Q & A

Q. What local food products are your favorite and why?

A: Working with our local farmers is truly important. They bring us seasonal produce and because of our unique growing seasons, we’re able to offer fresh fish, fruits and vegetables all year long. There’s abundant mango, papayas are excellent and we’re working with excellent local farms producing greens, chards and spinach. A fantastic local company, Tropical Dreams, is taking our fresh fruits and turning them into incredible sorbets and ice creams. The exotic dragon fruit-with its vibrant, purple-pinkish hues-is a favorite.

As the seasons change, so do the Hilton’s fish choices. Look for ono and ahi dishes on our restaurant menus in a variety of special preparations-we love to use ono. Light, fresh and bursting with color, our menus reflect the bounty, and the beauty of island life.

Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.

A: World cuisine – a wide variety of preparations, dishes and influences affect my style.  My tendency is to prepare food with a light and fresh approach, not heavy butter sauces.

Q: What are your favorite fun things to do in Hawai’i?

A: Hiking, travel and sports

Hilton Waikoloa Village is located at 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Beach Resort, Waikoloa, HI, 808-886-1234,

Recipe: Slow-Braised Hawaiian Grass-Fed Beef Brisket Sliders