Chef Esteban Alicea of Merriman’s Fish House had experience with the insect protein. Chef Fetulele “Fetu” Taala of The Dolphin Restaurant &Fish Market did not during the “Market to Menu” event that launched the 2018 Poipu Food &Wine Festival at the Kauai Culinary Market at The Shops At Kukuiula.
Crickets was one of the mystery ingredients the chefs needed to incorporate into their dishes in a timed competition based on the Food Network’s “Chopped” competition. The other ingredients other than the crickets from Sustainable Boost included rozelle hibiscus provided by Mr. Lin’s Farm, starfruit from Josie Green’s family of farmers, and breadfruit, or ulu, from Lanipo Farms.
“We eat ulu in Samoa,” Taala said. “And what’s with this rozelle?”
Both chefs had teams of culinary arts students from Kauai Community College, the program being a beneficiary of the Poipu Food &Wine Festival events.
Teams had to pair the mystery ingredients with beef provided by Ranchers Daughter’s Reserve, and had 15 minutes to canvas the Wednesday market for other ingredients outside of the common pantry they could utilize in their creations.
“The students are learning a lot,” said Chef Martina Hilldorfer of the KCC culinary arts program. “Not only do they have to work against the clock, they are learning how to work with unusual or unique materials, how to work around unexpected surprises, and more.”
Among the guests gathered to watch the culinary teams, Sabine Dumais of the University of Alberta watched with great interest with her baby and husband.
“I teach this at school,” Dumais said. “We came especially for this competition after we learned it was taking place. I teach culinary tourism through the school’s Tourism Management Program.”
Celeste Rogers, a Food Network “Chopped” competition winner, guided the audience through creation of the Market to Menu process, skillfully interweaving her own life experiences of living in Hawaii before joining the Food Network.
Rogers is one of the celebrity chefs teaching classes in the day-long series of In the Kitchen where people were offered the opportunity for hands-on learning with chefs from The Club at Kukuiula, Rogers, and eating establishments in The Shops at Kukuiula.
When the dust settled and the judges — Chef Shaden Sato of the Halekulani Hotel; Mark Oyama, owner of Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering and an instructor at the Kauai Community College; and Orly Yadao, a recent winner of the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars, Season 8,” and waiting on opening his own patisserie in Puhi — had finished their discussions on how well the teams had incorporated all of the ingredients, the team of Chef Alicea and Merriman’s was announced the winner by a slim margin.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.