The venues are quiet, the chef’s whites put away and thousands of appetites sated: The sixth Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, the haute-cuisine destination event that put Hawaii back on the global food map, is over.
The festival opened on the Big Island in mid-October, swept over Maui and arrived on Oahu last week. Chef battles, wine seminars, keiki events, glittering evening galas: All featured culinary superstars from Asia, the US, Europe and Hawaii, all putting forth for diners the bounty of Hawaii’s land and sea.
Here’s a look at the galas and battles of the finale weekend.
Friday night at the Hawaii Convention Center
Hawaiian Airlines Presents A Culinary Flight
Until this year it was held in late summer; this year the Hawaii Food & Wine Fest moved to a late October calendar partly to accommodate great wines and winemakers. Friday night, the Hawaii Convention Center played host to the festival’s marquee wine tasting event.
Twenty celebrity chefs from around the world prepared dishes to go with the vast selection of more than 20 wines, cheeses from the Cheese Shop in Carmel, California and oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co.
– by Ed Morita
Friday night, Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach
Clash of the Ramen
Friday night and it was time to rumble! Clash of the Ramen presented by Hawaii’s Sun Noodle was an international battle royale of chefs armed with their weapon of choice: delicious ramen of their own creation. Seven entered, but only one could win. This fight was sold out from the get-go.
Fighting it out in this noodle death match were Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong with the homecourt advantage, joined by Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto Waikiki. Opposing them were Takashi Yagihashi of Chicago’s Slurping Turtle and Ivan Orkin of New York City’s Ivan Ramen. Rounding out the fight card were international players Luca Catalfamo of Casa Ramen in Milan, Italy and Kenji Chiba of Tokyo’s Chibakiya. At 9 p.m. the doors were thrown open and the chefs started giving dirty lickins.
Eaters would determine the champion. Each attendee got a ticket to award to their favorite ramen. The chefs wanted those tickets. And it showed. Light flavors ducked and weaved against richer competitors. Silky textures squared off against bold, spicy oils. Tender chashu faced juicy shrimp.
Competition was fierce. Chefs and crews worked frantically to satisfy eaters clamoring for bowls. The atmosphere grew even more intense as votes were calculated. Whose bowl would reign supreme? In the end, crowd favorite Roy Yamaguchi’s team did Hawaii proud.
Frolic’s Amanda Stevens had one question for Yamaguchi moments after his big win:
How does it feel to have won this Ramen Battle with your Spicy King Crab and Pono Pork Ramen against your peers?
“We have a great team, we all worked together to make sure the flavors were there,” Yamaguchi said. “My background is French, so whatever we do always has layers of flavor: pork, chicken, crab, with the acidity of the ginger and the richness and fattiness of the broth.”
Spoken like a true champion.
– by Eric Baranda
Saturday night at Ko Olina Resort
The annual finale for the festival was moved to Saturday night so attendees could enjoy the event and all that Ko Olina Resort had to offer for a full weekend. About a dozen local and international chefs had tasting stations, and the wine tents were busy all night until the big fireworks show over the lagoon.
There’s always a VIP section, but this year they created a separate event-within-an-event, where those ticket holders literally and figuratively had an elevated experience. Seated above the crowd, VIPs enjoyed table service with several courses prepared by their own set of celebrity chefs, as well as specially curated wines to match.
– by Melissa Chang
Sunday at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach
Battle of the Brunch and Bass, Round III
Six chefs + two bands = the ultimate brunch and bass showdown.
Battle of the Brunch and Bass featured three chef duos competing for brunch bragging rights. Two-time defending champs Lee Anne Wong (Koko Head Café) and Sven Ullrich (Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa) were going for their third straight title. Their competition: husband-and-wife duo Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka (MW Restaurant), and Colin Hazama (The Royal Hawaiian) and Celina Tio (Julian in Kansas City, Missouri).
At the same time, The Waimanalo Sunset Band and traditional Hawaiian band Puuloa sounded off for the rights to a one-month contract at the Outrigger’s Kani Ka Pila Grille. Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s “Man Finds Food” and NBC’s “Food Fighters” emceed.
The chefs brought their A-game for the brunch battle, and guests noshed on a smorgasbord of dishes. Tio/Hazama served longanisa sausage, a Kona lobster “BLT” and Kualoa oyster bar. MW’s theme was “A Pig Tale” and they served up nine dishes from different parts of a pig — everything from roast pork loin and breakfast tacos to breakfast sausage and a pig’s head-and-foie gras terrine. Wong/Ullrich offered two taro-inspired dishes: Big Island chicken and taro crepe with coconut-taro compote and light, fluffy rum-honey kalo cakes. Attendees also enjoyed cocktails and an ultimate Bloody Mary bar.
After a hotly contested culinary battle, Wong and Ullrich pulled out of their chef’s toques an amazing third consecutive title as the champions of brunch. And Puuloa won playing rights at the Outrigger.
– by Kelli Shiroma