Jakki Nelson says one of her favorite aspects of Taste of Hawaii is the chef camaraderie.
“I love to watch them walk around and enjoy everyone else’s booth,” said Nelson, Taste of Hawaii chef and beverage coordinator. “I love it when I first send out invitations to be in the event and (chefs) all start calling me: ‘What’s Guy Higa going to cook? What’s Adam Phelps going to cook?’ And they never want to make their decision until they know what other people are doing.”
A few years back, Nelson said chefs from the St. Regis lined up at The Feral Pig booth to get their pork sliders.
“At this event, chefs can come back together, they cook with each other, they cook for each other and have a great time,” she said. “Watching these guys interact is really fun because you don’t get to do that when you go to a restaurant: The chefs are in the back and you’re out front.”
The 28th “Ultimate Sunday Brunch,” the signature fundraiser of the Rotary Club of Kapaa, is Sunday at Smith’s Tropical Paradise.
It will include five different wine purveyors, eight beer vendors and over 20 chefs, said Ron Margolis, Taste of Hawaii co-chair.
“It’s the ultimate garden party with all you can eat and drink for four hours,” Margolis said.
Restaurants planning to participate this year include Hukilau Lanai, Lava Lava Beach Club, Plantation Gardens out of Poipu, Sushi Bushido, Olympic Cafe as well as eateries from the outer islands.
“We have a couple Hilo restaurants that have done the event for many, many years: Chef Casey Halpern from Cafe Pesto in Hilo and chef Colin Nakagawa from Seaside restaurant and also the culinary department of Hawaii Community College,” Nelson said.
Nakagawa, owner of The Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm, said the eatery will prepare grilled shrimp with wasabi aioli with a sprinkle of furikake over mesclun greens.
“This is a great community event,” Nakagawa said. “We’re just happy to participate every year.”
For Halpern, Cafe Pesto’s executive chef and an attendee since 1999, the fundraiser is a challenge.
“I know the other chefs are making good food and I want to make sure my food is good,” he said.
Cafe Pesto will prepare a twist on a banana lumpia.
“We’re gonna do a dehydrated banana and a banana puree on the side of it with some Koloa Rum and mac nuts,” he said. “On the side will be a banana whip cream dipping sauce.”
For the last seven years, the Taste of Hawaii gave Hawaii Community College chef instructor Shawn Sumiki the opportunity to network with restaurants.
“We get to talk to them about our students,” he said. “Some of them are from Maui, Kauai or Honolulu, so it’s good to offer what are students have.”
Krissi Miller, an owner of Hukilau Lanai, commends any restaurant for putting their time, effort and product out there.
“Most people feel good about (Taste of Hawaii) because the benefits for the rotary club is tangible,” she said. “You can see where the good is going.”
Hukilau Lanai sous chef Adam Phelps and his team will prepare Cochinita Tacos this year: Slow roasted pork with pickled red onions and cilantro.
Margolis said the Taste of Hawaii is a great deal at $100 a ticket.
“If you went to dine at these fine restaurants, you would spend a $100 to eat one chef’s food,” he said. “Here you can eat 25 chefs’ food plus all you can drink and the money goes back to the community, of course.”
The event has enabled the Rotary Club of Kapaa to support causes such as Adopt a Class at Kapaa and Kekaha elementary school and Junior Achievement Kauai, which teaches financial literacy education in business planning and entrepreneurship and how to manage your personal finances.
“Classes are given from elementary school all the way up to the high school level,” he said. “We gave (Junior Achievement Kauai) $25,000 last year.”
As far as music, Margolis said 13 musical groups, representing an array of genres, will delight the crowd.
“We have The Quake, which is Kauai’s preeminent funk band; Not My First Rodeo, which is a great country band; we have The Bootleggers; Artistic License; Rumba Del Fuego, which is a Latin salsa dance band,” he said.
Volunteers will include groups like the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity and the other four rotary clubs of Kauai.
To ease traffic, parking will be at Vidinha Stadium. Shuttles will take patrons to Smith’s Tropical Paradise. Shuttle service begins at 10 a.m., doors open at 11 and patrons may enter the park at 11:30. The event runs until 3:30 p.m.
Taste of Hawaii:
Smith’s Tropical Paradise
Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Tickets are $100 at www.tasteofhawaii.com and $125 at the gate.
Vidinha Stadium: Shuttle service begins at 10 a.m.
North: Hanalei Surf Company, Magic Dragon
Kilauea: North Shore Pharmacy
Kapaa: Jim Saylor Jewelers, Vicky’s Fabrics
Lihue: Deli & Bread Connection, Inkspot Quality Printing Corp.
South: Progressive Expressions, Poipu Surf
West: Westside Pharmacy