Articles from May 2013

Look Who’s Cookin’ at Taste of the Hawaiian Range

Viktor Schmidt of Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay

Chef Viktor Schmidt, CEC

Chef Viktor Schmidt, CEC

New to Hawai‘i Island, Viktor Schmidt will debut at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range on October 4. The executive chef of the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay has already been involved with the community culinary scene, however, mentoring Hawai‘i Community College students. Chef Schmidt also won first place in the professional cooked category at the recent Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest and serves as vice president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Kona Kohala Chefs Association.

Cooking Since a Teenager

Chef Schmidt grew up in a big family in Massachusetts. As a high school freshman, he was wowed by “all the wonderful food” being created in a vocational cooking class and signed up for a four-year apprenticeship program. In the U.S. Army, he served as a cook and his military service helped fund his degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management from the University of Alaska. Schmidt enjoyed culinary stints at Sheraton and Hilton hotels in the 49th State, as well as with Japan Airlines Inflight Catering Service. Before coming to Keauhou last summer, he worked as an executive chef in Waikiki. An ACF Certified Executive Chef with over 30 years experience, Schmidt also holds a degree from New York’s Culinary Institute of America.

Q and A

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

A: A blend of Pacific Northwest with an Asian flair. Think of macnut-crusted halibut served with a carrot curry sauce. It’s a marriage of Alaska and Hawai‘i. A lot of food between the two states is similar—in cooking style and demographics of the kitchen.

Q: Do you use grass-fed beef at the Sheraton Kona?

A: We use it for special occasions, such as our farm-to-table offerings. We need to educate the general public that it has its own flavor and tastes different than corn-fed beef. Diners are confused. My job as chef is to expose them to it and market it in the right way.

Q. What are your favorite grass-fed beef cuts and why?

A: Rib eye and short ribs; both are very flavorful.

Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?

A: Anything grown yesterday—it’s that simple.

Q: What do you like to do pau-hana (after work)?

A: I’ve lived here nine months so I’m still in the discovery mode. I enjoy going to all the farmer’s markets around the island…trying all the fresh food, different breads. I haven’t been able to go fishing here yet, but I love to fish and still go back to Alaska to do that.

I love to help youth entering the food industry. In Alaska, I mentored a culinary team that went on to win the state’s ProStart competition. I’m still on the advisory board for my school in Massachusetts and in December, served as coach for our West Hawai‘i college culinarians, who won a bronze medal at the ACF Student Culinary Competition at Kapiolani Community College.

The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa is located at 78-128 Ehukai Street in Keauhou-Kona. 808-930-4900.

Recipe: 40-Mile Kimchee Poke Push Up
First Place Professional Cooked at Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest 2013
By Chef Viktor Schmidt, CEC


Recipe: 40-Mile Kimchee Poke Push Up

First Place Professional Cooked at Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest 2013
By Chef Viktor Schmidt, CEC
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay

Makes 20, 5 oz portions

Award-winner at 2013 Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest

Award-winner at 2013 Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest

This is a very unique and special poke. (Poke (po-KEH) is the Hawaiian word for “slice.” The local-style pupu (appetizer) typically consists of marinated, fresh local fish that’s raw, seared or cooked. However, it can also be made with other proteins, like meat and tofu. This poke is vegetable-based and we have tried to utilize vegetables harvested from our own beautiful island. The pork is also produced and smoked here. The 40-mile radius is important for the hotel as we strive to support the local markets and farmers. We like to say “think global but cook local.” This recipe is an example of exactly that.


5 pounds locally grown vegetables
Note: An example is corn, carrots, beans, peas and squash. The unique part is this recipe will change as to what is fresh and available on the day of production.
1 pound smoked Hawaiian boar


3 cups Ogatsu soup base
1.5 cups Kimchee base
1.5 cups Tonkatsu sauce
¼ cup Sambal olek
½ cup sesame oil
2 cups Aloha soy sauce
1 cup mirin
½ cup diced local ginger


Dice veggies and meat, combine with sauce. Put in plastic push ups (see photo) and garnish top with purple cabbage. Or serve in a bowl and let people help themselves. Plastic push ups can be sourced online from chef/culinary companies.

The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa is located at 78-128 Ehukai Street in Keauhou-Kona. 808-930-4900.


Chef-Farmer Partnership Key to Ingredient Sourcing

Every chef knows one of the secrets to fabulous food is having the right ingredients. However, living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific presents challenges when it comes to sourcing specific foods.

Many local farmers work closely with chefs to provide what they need. It’s a win-win for both as the chef gets fresh, desired ingredients and the grower has a committed market for buying product.

Planting on Demand

For instance, Adaptations in Honaunau prefers “to plant to order,” by knowing who is getting the crop before the seed is put into the ground.

Stripped cinnamon wood

After stripping the bark from cinnamon branches, Adaptations uses the tree wood to make chips for smoking and planks for barbecuing. Photo courtesy Adaptations

“If the demand is confirmed, it’s our secure base and from there, we can have confidence to plant additional supply,” says Maureen Datta, Adaptations vice president. “When a chef commits to an estimated minimum demand per week, or a standing order, then the chef gets priority if there are production issues.”

Adaptations grows bok choy, watermelon radish, hakurei turnips, culinary herbs, edible flowers, cinnamon and microgreens. Standing orders include microgreens—super young plants like basil, arugula, lettuce and mustard that sprout in soil. Microgreens boast a concentrated flavor and are high in nutrition. Chef Peter Pahk of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Chef Peter Abarcar of the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel have committed to a significant volume and can custom-order the variety of plants in their microgreens.

“We have chefs who give us inspiration for certain crops,” notes Datta, sharing that Adaptations is using leftover cinnamon wood to produce chips for smoking and planks for barbecuing. “We also got ideas to use cinnamon leaves to infuse teas and marinades.”


Figs from Love Family Farms. Photo courtesy Ken Love.

Degree of Ripeness Important

Ken Love of Love Family Farms in Captain Cook says he gets calls for specific fruits or fruit varieties. In addition, culinarians request fruits with a specific ripeness, depending on what they’re making.

Love recalls how O‘ahu Chef Alan Wong specified “very ripe” Brown Turkey figs for a special event dessert, adding that “tree-ripe” fruit is sweeter than “commercial ripe” fruit.

“The longer fruit is on the tree, the sweeter it is,” details Love, who is executive director of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers and president of the “Chefs will request a degree of ripeness depending on if they’re making a sweet or savory dish.”

Growing Preferred Varieties

Alii Mushrooms

Hamakua Mushrooms employs a bottle cultivation method to grow culinary fungal like Ali‘i Mushrooms. Photo courtesy Hamakua Mushrooms

Bob and Janice Stanga cater to chef requests at Hamakua Mushrooms in Laupahoehoe. Their “Ali‘i” or trumpet mushrooms have been ordered by O‘ahu chefs George Mavrothalassitis and Alan Wong. The mushroom has a nutty flavor, resilient firmness and long shelf life.

“We specifically grew Jumbo Ali‘is for Chef Mavro to use on his menu,” notes Lani Weigert, of Hamakua Mushrooms. “Alan Wong requested 350 Ali‘i mushrooms that were 2.5 inches long and one-inch in diameter for a special dinner over filet mignon.”

Producing 5,000 pounds of mushrooms weekly, the company also offers a mushroom favored by island residents for Hawaiian and Asian cuisine: pepeiao. The fungal was collected in lush and moist Onomea; Auricularia cornea is only found in Hawai‘i and it boasts a chewy and crunchy texture.

Plant a Field and They Will Come

Instead of waiting for a special request to provide a certain product, Wailea Agricultural Group keeps abreast with the latest culinary trends and anticipates what chefs would like to have. Located on the Hamakua Coast, Wailea Ag is known for its fresh heart of palm, but also grows a wide variety of fruits, spices and flowers.

“We try to be involved with the culinary trade, shares Wailea Ag’s Leslie Hill, who is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women in the fields of food, beverage and hospitality. “We do our research, try it and see if it grows.”

Then Hill takes the product to chefs and says, ”this is our latest and greatest, what do you think?” Her answer is the resulting orders and Hill thinks that’s great too.