A few weeks ago, Hawaii food industry leaders — chefs, farmers and ranchers — met at Leeward Community College to discuss food security in Hawaii. The theme of the day was taking responsibility for supporting local food producers.
To carry on that intention, the college’s culinary school is promoting community awareness of locally grown products at its annual fundraiser, the L‘ulu Culinary Arts Gala.
On Saturday, top chefs from 14 restaurants will prepare Hawaii-raised food in a unique format.
"We asked chefs to pair with farmers or local food producers," says chef and instructor Ian Riseley, whose students prepare cuisine for the Pearl, the college’s fine-dining venue. "Alongside the food booth, the farmer or producer will be at a table showcasing their product. And right next door, the chef will be cooking it."
For instance, chef Alan Wong and his chef de cuisine, Lance Kosaka, are working with Hamakua Springs Country Farms’ tomatoes to present a trio of tomato dishes: Vine Ripened Tomato Soup, Roasted Tomato and Ume Tomato Sorbet.
Chef Elmer Guzman of Poke Stop is paired with Nozawa Farms; he’s creating a sweet corn batter to make a corn dog that also features a seafood pork hash link and honey mustard. Pacific Club executive chef Eric Leterc will make Big Island Hawaiian Red Veal Stew with meat from Hawaii Cattle Producers.
Riseley’s crew will be paired with Mari’s Garden, Fred Lau’s nearly sustainable aquaponic garden, which uses photovoltaic energy to run water pumps and tilapia to fertilize plants.
Riseley will use the farm’s Manoa, red oak and green oak lettuces, plus its cucumbers, to create a Kiawe Smoked Lomilomi Salmon Salad.
The salmon will be brined and slow-smoked, then dried in the oven. The salad also calls for baby cherry tomatoes and taro prepared two ways — as poi for the bottom of the bowl and julienned, then deep-fried, to provide a crunchy topper. Calamansi and Hawaii chili will contribute to a salad dressing.
Riseley says it’s a pleasure to work with Lau’s greens.
"They grow faster and they last longer — two weeks," he says.
"People say eating local is too expensive, but the upside is that the products are so fresh, wastage is zero. Costco spring mix might be cheap, but it lasts only a few days. Plus, I think locally grown tastes better."