Every year, Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range invites some new chefs and exhibitors for the evening gala. They join the many, long-time, favorite participants who readily celebrate our locally grown and produced food.
Hilo Native Sheldon Simeon of Migrant
A native of Hilo and graduate of Hilo High and UH’s Maui Culinary Academy, Sheldon Simeon of Migrant restaurant is making his first appearance at Taste. His restaurant is at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
The Maui chef earned national acclaim after finishing in the top three and winning the “fan favorite” award on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Seattle.” He also took the Rising Star Award from StarChefs.com for Concept Chef in 2012 and was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2011.
Chef Simeon notes “the flavor is awesome” of pasture-raised beef and he feels using locally produced meats and produce is pono, or the right thing to do. “As chefs, we are responsible for using locally produced food,” he details. “It encourages our growers and ranchers.” Sourcing from Niihau Ranch, Simeon says he best enjoys using the “off-cuts” of pasture-raised meats in restaurant specials. “A favorite is short ribs because the local beef braises well,” he explains.
During this year’s Taste, Simeon is assigned goat and says he and his culinary team are brainstorming ways to use it. Adding that he likes Taste’s culinary format of preparing assigned meats, he explains, “This event tests chefs to be creative in the purist way as we are preparing food out of necessity. That really goes back to the roots of cooking.” www.migrantmaui.com.
Keola Valdez of Tropics Ale House
Chef Keola Valdez grew up on O‘ahu and the Big Isle, earning his culinary education on O‘ahu at Gros Bonnet and UH’s Kapiolani Community College. He serves as executive chef of Tropics Ale House in the Waikoloa Beach Resort and the new Citizen Irish Publik House in Kailua-Kona.
At Tropics, he oversees a menu of hand-tossed pizzas to order, sliders and sandwiches, salads, entrees and hefty “Bar Bites” like wine-braised escargot and mac nut ahi poke.
“We use 100 percent grass-fed beef here at Tropics,” detail Chef Valdez. “Any beef on our menu is Big Island beef. We strongly support local businesses, using all the local products we can—like produce from Honopua Farms. Fresh fish is dropped off at our back door; we use whatever they catch.”
Assigned top round for his Taste debut, Chef says it’s going to be fun. “We are an ale house and so we’re going to recreate a sauerbraten menu with pasta,” he explains. “We’re rolling into October and want to theme Oktoberfest into our dish.” www.tropicsalehouse.com.
Meet Eight New Exhibitors
The 2015 Taste boasts eight new exhibitors, offering food products or educational displays. They include Big Island Booch, “Edible Hawaiian Islands” magazine, Hawaii Farmers Union United, Hawaii Island Meat Cooperative, MacFarms of Hawaii, Nirmal Farms, Papa‘a Palaoa Bakery and Punachicks Farm.
Big Island Booch Kombucha
Big Island Booch will be serving several flavors of kombucha—a raw, “living,” fermented tea possessing probiotic organisms, enzymes, organic acids, vitamins and minerals. Kombucha’s metabolites are reputed to aid digestion, facilitate detoxification and help raise the body ph to a properly balanced alkaline state.
In addition, the Hilo company’s subsidiary, Conscious Cultures, will be serving a variety of sauerkraut and kim chi (chee), such as Blissed-out Beet Kraut.
Big Island Booch handcrafts its elixirs, flavoring them with local organic fruits and herbs to concoct beverages like the Super Ginger Tumeric Tonic and Mango Merry Mint. Find Big Island Booch beverages at its Conscious Culture Café in downtown Hilo and at farmer’s markets: Maku‘u and Kalapana in Pahoa and South Kona.
“It’s also sold at all the local natural food stores, KTA and Foodland,” says Kela Cosgrove of Big Island Booch. “Get it on tap at Kona Coffee and Tea Company, Daylight Mind and Oven and Butter Bakery.” www.bigislandbooch.org.
Punachicks Farm in Ke‘eau offers fresh, organic, pastured poultry with the majority of its broilers sold on the Big Isle. Chickens are raised in floorless, portable pens that are moved daily throughout 5.5 acres of grass that includes perennial peanut and pangola. The birds are protected from the elements and predators, allowing them to eat green grass, bugs and organic feed.
“We currently have 16 pens that hold between 50-100 chickens each,” says co-owner Emily Taaroa who operates the farm with her husband, Yoric. “Right now we are processing around 500 chickens or more each month, so that comes to 6,000-plus chickens to market each year.”
When chickens are market size, they are ‘”respectfully slaughtered” and hand-processed on the farm. Punachicks is approved by the USDA and Hawaii Dept. of Health and has a state food establishment permit. It can sell straight from the farm to farmer’s markets, restaurants and retail stores such as Dimple Cheeks Farmer’s Market, Island Naturals, Abundant Life and The Locavore Store in Hilo, plus Healthways II in Waimea. Whole dressed broilers are available for pickup directly from the farm. www.punachicksfarm.com.