Look Who’s Cookin’ at Taste of the Hawaiian Range: Joshua Ketner of Hilo Bay Café

Josh Ketner

Chef Joshua Ketner, Courtesy Hilo Bay Café

At last year’s Taste, Chef Joshua Ketner wowed the crowd with his preparation of whole island pork by offering a tantalizing porchetta-whole boneless pig stuffed with herbs, then carefully rolled and roasted with pork demi glace.

It’s no surprise that Chef Ketner and Hilo Bay Café has a loyal following of patrons and has chalked up rave reviews on Zagat and yelp!. The unassuming restaurant has generated national media attention in magazines such as Food and Wine, Gourmet, and Sunset, and it has won accolades, including the prestigious Hale ‘Aina award several years running. In today’s Taste It blog, Chef Ketner shares his thoughts on using grass-fed beef. The Midwest native, who hails from Moline, Ill. and enjoys fishing and spending time with his young family, says he earned his culinary chops during “on the job training.”

Q and A

Roast Pig

In 2009, USDA wild boar debuted at Taste and Chef Joshua Ketner showed how to prepare it expertly on a spit to the delight of camera-toting attendees. It was one of the event's most popular culinary stations.

Q: Why did you become involved with the culinary arts?
A: The Culinary arts are my passion dating back to age 4; I started in the business at age 14.

Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
A: New American, eclectic, French, with Asian undertones….For example, we offer grass-fed rib eye with Johnson farms rainbow swiss chard, roasted yukon gold potatoes, balsamic-red wine bordelaise and tapenade butter. We serve grass-fed barbecued beef brisket with savory paniolo bread pudding, local, organic green beans and barbecue-red wine bordelaise.

Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef (GFB)?
A: Here at Hilo Bay Café, we believe it is good for our community and our environment, plus it tastes wonderful.

Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?
A: It’s got to be 21-day, dry-aged rib eye- the marbling, taste and tenderness all work together.

Q: Do you let patrons know on your menu they are eating GFB?
A: Yes

Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
A: We use mainly all local/organic products. This makes it hard to single out a few “favorites.” At the heart of our food is the belief that local and organic ingredients are better for the Earth and for you.

Q: Are you participating in the 2012 Taste?
A: Yes

Hilo Bay Café is located at 315 Ma’akala St. in Waiakea Center in Hilo. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Reservations are recommended, 808-935-4939, www.hilobaycafe.com. Follow Hilo Bay Café on facebook.

Cooking Tip

“Use first-rate ingredients and then let the flavors come through,” says Chef Ketner. “Cook to enhance the flavor, not cover it up.”

Chef likes to reinvent classical dishes, such as Wellington and potpie. He adds a modern twist, focusing especially on flavor and texture combinations as he feels both are “critical components” of his dishes. When asked to sample something by Chef Joshua, he suggests you don’t just take a bite of one thing. He insists you “take a little of everything on the plate, and load up your fork to get the full effect…”

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Shop, Dine, Buy Local for the Holidays

This week we feature a guest blog by Leomi L. Bergknut who has helped with event planning of Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and was 2009 chairperson. Growing up in Hilo, she remembers grass-fed beef was a special meal to have for dinner. Buying local, fresh vegetables and supporting our local agricultural economy is a practice Bergknut encourages by supporting local ranchers and farmers. Bergknut is a consultant who has shared her skills with those in the agricultural field as a way of sustaining our agricultural lands for the future of Hawai‘i Island. She can be contacted at honuapo@yahoo.com or at 808-987-3432.

Support Restaurants that Source Local Food

In Kaimuki on O‘ahu, town Restaurant has been able to serve island fresh products on its daily menu. Chef Ed Kenney features many agricultural products from our state: Kuahiwi flatiron steak, locally caught ahi, Big Island goat, MA`O organic lettuce, Hamakua mushrooms and many other vegetables and herbs. Recently, the Kaua‘i shrimp with the Big Isle’s WOW farm tomatoes was tasty, delicious and flavored with locally grown fennel and basil. For dessert, the lilikoi tart had a satisfying rich and creamy flavor.

Town Kahuku ShrimpCarbonated water was served in recycled glass containers and table coasters are made from recycled menus. Our server, Randi, was a source of information and shared, “Local products are used first, organic whenever possible, and being conscious of recycling is done as much as possible.” The couple next to us had a town gift card which is another great way to celebrate the holidays with families and friends! Contact town at 808-735-5900 or www.townkaimuki.com.

Likewise, Hilo Bay Café in Hilo has a wide assortment of local Big Island products on its menu. The lunch menu features many items as the heart of their food is the belief that “local and organic ingredients are better for the Earth and for you.” The soup of the day was a Hamakua mushroom potato bisque with an earthy delicate taste. The burgers at Hilo Bay Café are made from local, grass-fed beef – grilled to your preference with daily toppings of local vegetables.

Hilo Bay Cafe Local Grass-fed Beef BurgerOrder your Hamakua mushroom potpie as soon as you are seated – it takes 20 minutes to bake and is a treat to taste. It even looks like a mushroom — the crust is flaky and there are generous portions of mushrooms to enjoy! The dinner menu also features ahi poke, roasted free-range chicken and grilled Kulana ribeye steaks. Hilo Bay Café serves lunch from 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5-9 p.m. Gift certificates are available and good for two years, 808-935-4939 or www.hilobaycafe.com.

Hilo Bay Cafe Mushroom Pot PieThere are many other restaurants on the Big Isle that are doing holiday gift cards and certificates– contact them and share their island style cuisine with family and friends. It’s a great way to introduce family and friends to locally raised products and vegetables cooked in different ways, while supporting many of our ranchers and farmers.

Fresh Gift Giving Ideas at Farmers Markets

Take time to shop at Hawai‘i Island farmers markets. Make a fruit and vegetable basket for friends or pick-up value-added products. A good find are sausages made with Kona Brewery beer and locally seasoned meats from Daniel and Clare Bobo of Island Thyme Gourmet at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) Waimea Farmers Market. It’s where you can get WOW Farms fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, gather organic vegetables grown at Honopua Farms and combine them with fresh red veal to create a gift. Visit the Waimea Farmers Market on Saturday’s from 7 a.m.-noon. Another DHHL site is the Maku`u Farmers Market on the Keaau-Pahoa Highway from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays. Maku`u Farmers Market has a wide range of vendors offering produce, jewelry, artwork and food booths.

Hawaii Ranchers, WOW Tomatoes

The Big Island Farm Bureau Farmers Markets feature 100 percent, Hawai‘i grown-and-produced products. The Keauhou Farmers Market, located at the Keauhou Shopping Center in Kona, and the Hilo’s Kinoole Farmers Market, located at the old Food Fair site on Kinoole Street, are both open from 6:30 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Come early and gather fresh produce for your holiday meals! For more info on dates and times, visit www.bigislandfarmbureau.org.

Don’t forget that there are other many farmers markets located on our island which feature other farmer’s fruits and vegetables, locally raised plants such as orchids and handmade items.

Value-Added Products Make Great Gifts

A friend asked where could they get a holiday box of grass-fed beef? Contact JJ’s Country Market in Honoka‘a at 808-775-7744, Kulana Foods Ltd. in Hilo at 808-959-9144 or Kahua Ranch in Kohala at 808-882-4646 for an assortment of grass-fed beef cuts. It’s recommended you place your order two days ahead of time.

A made-in-Hawai‘i assortment of spices, which are all natural, with no preservatives and no MSG, no peanuts and GREAT for seasoning – is Kaiulani Spices; they are available at Foodland and Sack-n-Save stores on the Big Isle. The Hawaiian Spice or the Kona Coffee Rub & Season add flavor to grilled meats and vegetables and make great gifts for locals living on the Mainland. For gift packages or further info, visit www.kaispices.com.

KTA Super Stores has been a great supporter of the Hawai‘i Dept. of Ag campaign, “Buy Local-It Matters,” and many fresh local products found in the grocer’s produce department can be made into gift baskets. Other products available include grass-fed beef, Kona and Ka‘u coffee, locally raised eggs and dairy products, plus many other value-added products.

Sweet potato crunch, chocolate, macadamia nuts

Know someone craving for chocolate and has a sweet tooth? Gift baskets and boxes of locally produced chocolate from island-grown cacao can be ordered online by the Original Chocolate Factory at www.ohcf.us. Find chocolate bars for sale at Greenwell Farms in Kona, which is known for its coffee (www.greenwellfarms.com), and at Island Natural stores (www.islandnaturals.com.) Island Natural Stores also has a great assortment of local honey, which includes The Local Buzz Hawaiian Honey from Na‘alehu.

Honey, tea, coffee

Green Party Planning Tip

If you’d like to go “green” this holiday season with compostable paper plates, cups and utensils – Sustainable Island Products (SIP) has its goods at Island Natural Stores for families. However, feel free to contact SIP if you are having a large party (500+) or if several families are having parties over the holidays and want to share the cost of items at www.1888sip2you.com or call toll free at 1-888-sip-2you. It’s a great gift to give to our `aina and our planet!

A Time to be Thankful

Mahalo to all of our supporters who donated their valuable time, their agricultural knowledge and products toward the 15th Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural Festival last fall. We thank those who visited our Website and facebook pages over this past year. We appreciate all of you who attended and were able to “taste” the many dishes our island chefs cooked up using our grass-fed beef and other locally produced products. We look forward to your continued support in 2011 and wish all of you a safe holiday season full of peace and joy!

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