Did this: Roast & Roots 2014

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About a thousand people turned out for the inaugural “Roast & Roots” on the Big Island this weekend, an event showcasing local farmers, local products and local chefs. The Hawaii Coffee Association, Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture collaborated on this with event planners The Feeding Leaf to help stimulate the “Buy Local” movement.

And there was a lot of movement on Saturday at the Sheraton Keahou Convention Center. So much, that I couldn’t get a shot of Les Apoliona and Roger Kaiwi, the men who actually brainstormed the concept and brought it to life. I did, however, get to judge in the cooking competition, where students from the West Hawaii culinary program were paired up with well-known chefs to create amazing dishes. This wasn’t a regular competition; it was educational, too.

The students started with play money, earned through a series of quizzes. At the end, they could use the money to bid on the ingredients for this competition, as well as “sabotages” that they could throw at the team of their choice to make the contest even harder. According to Tracey Apoliona of The Feeding Leaf, this helped to spur strategic thinking for the students and make them plan ahead. They then partnered with the chefs and revealed the ingredients, and worked together to learn how to bring out the best in the ingredients at hand — which, by the way, were obtained from within a 50 mile radius.

Here’s how the competition culminated:

Roast and Roots 2014

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You know it's going to be a good day when this face greets you!

After the judging, the students served up samples to the hordes of hungry attendees.

In addition to the competition, there was a “Buy Local” marketplace, a people’s choice coffee cupping contest featuring Kona and Ka’u coffees, a “mystery box” demo by legendary local chef Sam Choy, and live entertainment by local entertainers including Na Hoku Hanohano award winners Mark Yamanaka and Raiatea Helm. The cost for admission? Five dollars.

That’s right, with free parking, the entry fee got you a whole day of food samples, coffee samples, live entertainment and a lot of socializing. At the end, they told the audience they could take home the food items on display at the stage as well as the two full-grown banana trees used for decoration in the room. (Only in Hawaii!)

By the way, Rusty’s Hawaiian, a family farm in Ka’u, captured the People’s Choice award in the coffee cupping competition. I know Rusty’s is a favorite among the big coffee geeks out there, so that’s no surprise.

Roast and Roots 2014

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Based on the overwhelming success of this first event, it looks like there will be another one next year. We can’t wait!

These are just the highlights. To see all my photos from Roast & Roots 2014, click here.

Disclosure: Airfare and the $5 admission fee was provided by Kamehameha Schools.