The Waipa Way: Eat the Invasives

WAIPA — Foraged fruits and freshly-caught fish were on the menu at the Waipa Foundation’s latest debut dinner series, which puts the spotlight on the more nefarious parts of nature.

Chef Michael Madigan created the first of the Eat the Invasive dinner series events, and he served the six-course meal to patrons seated under the covered atrium outside of the Waipa Foundation’s new kitchen.

“What better way to get rid of the invasive species than to eat the invasives,” Madigan said. “So, we’re highlighting what you can do with invasive species.”

Strawberry guava was paired with Tahitian prawn for a starter and complimented with a jackfruit bellini cocktail.

“The jackfruit isn’t invasive,” Madigan said. “But we were walking through the garden earlier and there it was, ready to go, so we decided to do something with it.”

Madigan used both the invasive ta’ape, or bluestripe snapper and tilapia in the dinner, and used a pig hunted from Kauai’s mountains to make what he dubbed “sorta porchetta” — a savory pork roll in sweet onion jus, served with warabi fern.

Ironwood smoked venison from Molokai, wrapped in bele leaf and in a java plum sauce, with kalo, or taro.

Lilikoi, or passion fruit in phyllo, with caramelized banana ended the meal, which organizer Kalen Kelekoma hailed as a success.

“It was the first time we did something like this and I think next time we’ll have a few things we do differently, but I think it was successful,” Kelekoma said.

Using the screen feature of the atrium’s back wall to project information about the invasive species is one of the tweaks he has planned.

The $1.2 million new Waipa kitchen — named Laukupu — was completed in September 2015 and, after obtaining permits, opened its doors in December 2015.

A patchwork of money from private donors, fundraising events, and grants funded the project.

In addition to the large space for entertaining guests during presentations, parties, dinners and other events; the space’s certified kitchen is a place for the community to come cook.

The idea sprouted more than 20 years ago because the Waipa Foundation already had produce coming from its garden and their orchard — a facility was needed to process everything.

“We also wanted to create a place where the community could come to create a value added product, or do catering, or fundraising,” Kelekoma said.

Many entrepreneurs who work with value-added products, or food products in general, need a certified kitchen to create their wares. The Laukupu Waipa Kitchen is a place to do that for the area’s business owners.

“Use the (Waipa) kitchen of using a friend’s restaurant in the off-hours,” Kelekoma said.

Currently, eight people use the certified kitchen including a company that makes locally sourced sausage, a taro burger company, a taro chip company, and a chef who makes pastries and baked goods.

“It’s a challenge for me to schedule people in there and we have people waiting in line,” Kelekoma said. “Besides those people, Waipa uses it for things like the Invasive Species dinner series, and we have people rent it out for birthdays and parties.”

Because the space is still so new, everyone is getting used to working in the Laukupu Waipa Foundation kitchen and Kelekoma said everyone is ironing out their procedures.

“People are really liking it and as we get used to how things work (in the kitchen) I can schedule a little less time between people and there may be more time available,” Kelekoma said. “We’ll see how it works out.”

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