Articles from July 2013

Look Who’s Cookin’ at Taste of the Hawaiian Range: Korie Nazara of Mahina Café

Mahina Cafe

From left: Alisha, Lian and Korie Nazara of Mahina Café.
Photo courtesy Mahina Café

First participating in Taste as a high school culinary student volunteer in 2004, local girl Korie Nazara returns this October as a participating chef with Mahina Café. Nazara says the Captain Cook, HI restaurant uses grass-fed beef because of personal preference and they “support local and buy local.” She explains, “After you eat a meal with grass-fed beef, you don’t feel all heavy,” she says. “You feel good. It’s better for you.”

Roots in Family Businesses

Chef Nazara says her interest in preparing food “all began” when she was 10 and worked with her parents in the family’s former business, Chris’ Bakery, a South Kona establishment known for its warm and delicious malasadas. “I always had a love for food and when I needed an elective at Konawaena High School (KHS), I signed up for culinary arts and ended up really liking it.”

Credits Konawaena High Culinary Teacher

Under the tutelage of then KHS culinary arts instructor Patti Kimball, Nazara excelled in the food science curriculum. She participated and placed in statewide culinary contests, like the Hawaii Family, Career and Community Leaders of America cooking competition. She also enjoyed vying in the Hilo Culinary Classic and local, food-related events like Taste.

“Korie is one of those persons who’s driven to achieve,” says Kimball, owner of Kimball’s Catering. “She is a hard worker and was one of my best students.”

Even though Nazara was offered jobs by local chefs, she followed her sister to college in Washington. Majoring in business, the teen attended St. Martin’s University for a year, but “got homesick” and returned to Kona. Two years ago, she opened Mahina’s Café with family members.

“Though I have no college culinary experience, I learned a lot in high school,” notes Nazara. “The majority of things I know I learned from Patti Kimball and I’m very appreciative.” Korie adds that she enjoys baking and Mahina’s bakes its own Portuguese sweet bread, focaccia bread, traditional malasadas, pastries and specialty cakes. She learned the art of making specialty cakes and cupcakes as a high school senior when she helped her uncle make wedding and birthday cakes. She likes working with fondant, buttercream and other icings.

Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
I call it local fusion. I like to stick to what local residents like but I’m not afraid to try something new. I created a pulled beef sandwich using brisket that’s slow cooked in the crockpot. I put apples on the bottom, rub the meat with seasoning, put in fresh rosemary and add apple juice and it cooks six hours or so until it falls apart. We put it on our bun, serve it with our homemade barbecue sauce and cole slaw, and run it as a special. A sign on the side of the road advertises the specials.

Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef (GFB)?
We support local and buy local, so buying strictly Big Isle grass-fed beef simply makes sense. There are no hormones and antibiotics and it’s easy for your digestive system. It’s better for you. We realized that personally.

Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?
A lot of people don’t use the knuckle cut; we use it for making teri beef and our french dip sandwiches. (Beef knuckle originates from the round primal cut and is also called a sirloin tip roast or french roll roast. It is sourced for stir frys and stroganoff.) We use a meat slicer to thinly cut the raw beef and then we simmer it in our teriyaki sauce—a family recipe. For the french dip, we roast the knuckle first, and then slice it.

Q: Do you let patrons know they are eating GFB?
Yes, it’s on the menu.

Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
Our motto is ‘farmer, rancher, fisherman fresh.’ We use as much local product as possible and source most of our produce from the wide, local selection at Adaptations here in Kona. All the fish we serve is caught in our Kona waters and we buy it direct from our local fishermen.

Q: What are your favorite “fun” things to do here in Hawai‘i?
I have two young boys—ages 2 and 4—and I like to spend my free time with them. We go to the park, the beach.

Mahina Café is located at 82-6123 Mahalahoa Hwy., Captain Cook, HI. 808-323-3200. Open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.


Recipe: Grass-Fed Beef

Hamburger Mix & Gravy
By Chef Korie Nazara
Mahina Café

Makes 20 Quarter-Pound Burgers

5 lbs grass-fed ground beef, preferably 80% lean
1 sweet onion diced
1 cup whole oats
2 eggs
¼ cup garlic salt

Kneed all ingredients together and make into patties. Great for cooking on the grill or using for hamburger steak or loco moco.

Gravy: At home to make gravy for burgers, I cook burgers in a skillet and save the drippings. I add a little water to the skillet and make a roux out of equal amounts flour and butter. Slowly add some of the warm drippings to the roux, so it doesn’t clump. When well combined, pour the roux into pan with drippings, stir and heat until thickened.

Mahina Café is located at 82-6123 Mahalahoa Hwy., Captain Cook, HI. 808-323-3200. Open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.


Local Meat Producers Cater to Market Preferences

Ranchers and meat producers work closely with chefs to meet their needs. Whether the goal is to achieve a certain flavor, texture or cut, local meat providers are catering to chefs in a variety of ways.

Many Chefs Prefer Feral Pork

Lloyd Case at Hawaiian Hogs in Waimea

Lloyd Case at Hawaiian Hogs in Waimea
Photo Courtesy Lloyd Case

Lloyd Case provides both feral and commercial swine for restaurants with his Waimea business, Hawaiian Hogs, Inc. He traps feral hogs of various sizes and also raises commercial hogs. Hawaiian Hogs donates several hogs every year for Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range.

In livestock farming for almost 40 years, Case deals with around 600 hogs on his farm, saying he gets a variety of requests from chefs concerning size of animal and flavor and texture of meat. In addition, he notes Hawaiians prefer the feral animal for luʻaus, and says many chefs prefer it too. Case says these chefs got acquainted with feral pork after assigned the meat at Taste.

“The meat of the feral hog has a different taste as the animal digests a more varied diet in the wild,” details Case. “It’s really a better eating animal and is chemical free.”

Case prefers to catch feral hogs when smaller—about 80 pounds—as they are easier to handle. He gets requests for all sizes though and also traps older hogs.

“Some people want to cook the pig on a spit so then size is key,” Case shares. “We also get requests for an older, bigger animal to make sausages, laulau or kalua pig. The meat of these animals tends to have a good texture and taste for these culinary uses.”

According to Case, some chefs request hogs fed a diet rich in macadamia nuts and fruit. The meat of animals on this specialty diet is especially juicy and flavorful.

“Regarding our commercial swine, we have found that hogs are happier and contented when raised on the ground; so that’s what we do,” adds Case. “When animals are stress free, the meat is softer and makes for better eating.”

Selling Beef Cuts

Rancher Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Na'alehu

Rancher Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Na’alehu
Photo courtesy Michelle Galimba

Chefs often buy certain beef cuts from ranches or the isle’s processing plants—Hawaii Beef Producers in Pa‘auilo or Kulana Foods in Hilo. Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Na‘alehu has been working with chefs for about four years and has gotten to know the grass-fed beef preferences of chefs. Some want certain cuts, while others—like Chef Justin Wu at the Whole Ox on O‘ahu—wants the whole carcass. “Justin wants the carcass broken down only into quarters so he can cut it to his liking,” explain Galimba. “Most chefs want it broken down more.”

Galimba says she working with the new management at Volcano House to use the whole animal rather than certain cuts. Ranchers get more value for their animals when there is no waste.

“When I first started selling our beef, there were certain cuts I wasn’t familiar with,” Galimba adds. “Now I’m looking at other cuts differently as chefs are willing to use them.” Case in point is what Hawaii Beef Producers refers to as “flap meat” or “skirt steak,” another example is the flat iron steak.

The consumer preference for teriyaki beef—thinly sliced beef marinated in teriyaki sauce—is a godsend for ranchers who need to market the large primal cut at the animal’s rump, called the round. Galimba says the round is a lean, large cut and can be chewy. Top round steak is the beef cut with the fewest calories and the least amount of fat.

“Here in Hawai‘i, teri beef is part of our diet and so grocers will thinly slice round so people can make it,” shares Galimba. “It’s also on a lot of menus.”

Marketing Meat Sustainably

HBPJill Mattos of Hawaii Beef Producers says she is “constantly” working with chefs and resorts to fill orders for select and certain cuts. For example, a Kohala Coast hotel recently asked for a “109 rib” or rib primal to make several prime rib dinners.

“We might get a request for a steamship round because the client wants to put it on a huli huli machine (spit),” she adds. “A chef may need a bunch of rib eye steaks for a special dinner.” Mattos, who is fourth generation in the grass-fed beef industry and also a rancher, says Hawaii Beef Producers also gets requests for shoulder clods from the Maui Cattle Company

With a goal to be sustainable and use all animal cuts, Mattos will call clients “if she has an abundance of an item” and ask if they want to use it by offering a special. Meat is also branded and sold as Hawaii Big Island Beef at JJ’s Country Meat Market in Honokaʻa.

Producing Consistent Quality Beef

Kulana FoodsFulfilling the need to provide chefs with a consistent quality of product is the goal of Tom Asano, sales manager for Kulana Foods. Asano says Kulana works with over a dozen ranches to source grass-fed beef. “These ranchers produce consistent quality beef because they know the importance of providing their animals with quality pasture to bring them to market,” shares Asano. “They tell me they are farming grass.”

Asano says some chefs are also requesting dry-aged, grass-fed beef: a 21-day process that results in a tender product with a concentrated flavor. Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii uses dry-aged grass-fed beef and he’ll be leading the Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 class prior to this year’s Taste, 3 p.m. October 4.

“With the recent trend of farm-to-table cuisine, we see more chefs asking for not only grass-fed beef, but also Hawaiian wild boar, island lamb and island goats,” adds Asano. “More chefs are looking to locally source quality meat for their guests and are featuring those meats at the center of the plate.”

For more info on the dry-aging of beef, visit the previous Taste It blog, Things to Know About Purchasing Beef.