NAWILIWILI — Everything had to be wrapped, said Guy Higa, executive chef of the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Wednesday while studying the scene before him.
Aptly named “It’s a Wrap,” the Hawai‘i Hotel and Lodging Association, changing its name to Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association Oct. 1, wrapped up its summer and offered a kick start to the 2012 Visitor Industry Charity Walk, Wednesday night at the Kaua‘i Marriott, said Sandi Kato-Klutke of the HHLA, Kaua‘i Chapter.
Melissa McFerrin of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau announced and presented a check to Chef Kahau Manzo of the Westin Princeville for his efforts at the recent Kaua‘i Coffee Celebrity Chef Challenge for Charity held during the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair in August.
Manzo prepared a mini laulau plate which captured the taste buds of the judges and guests of the event and for his efforts, $2,500 was presented to Denise Wardlow, general manager of the Westin Princeville and the chair of the 2012 Visitor Industry Charity Walk, a major fundraising effort hosted by the HHLA.
“It’s a great way to ‘wrap’ up the summer,” Kato-Klutke said. “Last week, we presented funds to 40 community nonprofits for the work they do to take care of our community and we enter the 2012 walk with a nice kick off.”
McFerrin said the “It’s a Wrap” and the Celebrity Chef Challenge represent a marrying of local agriculture and the culinary field.
During the chef cookoff, six local chefs, well-known for their culinary finesse and skills, were tasked with creating dishes utilizing locally-produced goods for the challenge.
During the Wednesday event which was attended by HHLA President Mufi Hannemann and Dean Okimoto of Nalu Farms, local producers such as Nancy Kanna of Sunrise Shrimp, Mamo Kaneshiro of Kaneshiro Farms, Les Milnes and the Kaua‘i Cattlemen Association and Rodney Haraguchi for taro leaves submitted product which was transformed under the direction of Higa and the Kaua‘i Marriott culinary staff.
Guests, members and allies of the HHLA, browsed through a variety of items prepared by Higa’s staff including konbu maki, Okinawa yakisoba, bulgogi lettuce wrapped, chop chae noodles, Kaneshiro Farms roast pork, pork and vegetable lumpia, vegetable pancit, braised Kaua‘i beef ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, pepper salt shrimp, nori wrapped karage chicken, daikon suri, mini palsami (Samoan laulau) and ti leaf wrapped Pacific Salmon.
“You could have people coming here to eat,” Okimoto said. “There is a wide diversity of cuisine in the buffet — Samoa, the Philippines, Japan, Okinawa, China, Thailand — all prepared so the tastes go together. It works well. You just cannot find this anywhere.”
Okimoto said events such as “It’s a Wrap” serves to increase the awareness of agriculture in Hawai‘i, a practice which is carried beyond the confines of the Kalapaki Beach resort into the farm bureau-sponsored community markets where vendors of Value Added products utilize agricultural producers for their wares.
But in order for agriculture to grow in Hawai‘i, Okimoto said there are problems which need to be addressed. These include land availability, water, transportation, labor and invasive species.
“There are a lot of challenges,” said Okimoto, noting Wednesday’s event as a prime demonstration of exposing the resorts to local farm products.
“But we’re seeing more understanding as people realize the importance of buying local.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.