Taste of Hawaii is celebrating its 30th Ultimate Sunday Brunch event on Sunday, June 2, but the culinary festival has technically been around longer.
It’s been postponed twice in its 32-year history — after Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and in 2018 due to the Kauai floods and Hawaii Island volcanic eruption.
That’s because Taste of Hawaii brings together top chefs from all the Hawaiian islands, and many of those chefs, even those on Kauai, were too busy with disaster relief to make the festival.
“The eruption happened 15 days before our event, and the flooding was 45 days before our event,” said Josie Cortez, president of the Rotary Club of Kapaa, which hosts Taste of Hawaii.
“The impact went much further than just damage to the restaurants. The restaurants maybe were OK, but the employees weren’t,” she said.
Postponing the 2018 Taste of Hawaii was a difficult decision, Cortez said, but allowed the Rotary Club of Kapaa to switch from party planning to disaster-relief efforts and help Kauai recover.
“We got a pass to go up to the North Shore, so we’ve been taking trips up there when someone needs something,” Cortez said.
Working with the island’s social-service organizations, members have been driving up through the roadblock and convoy that’s kept part of the North Shore isolated for more than a year. Members recently delivered a dryer to the Wainiha area.
“At least we’ve been able to get out there to help. We’ve been working closely with the food bank, too,” Cortez said.
And while the Rotary Club of Kapaa has been helping out with disaster relief, they’ve also gotten another full year to plan the 2019 Taste of Hawaii.
It’s going to be a Sunday lineup of 16 local bands playing on four different stages, more than 25 chefs from around the islands, and drinks from more than 10 vendors, all set at Smith’s Tropical Paradise.
“You get to stroll and savor the wonderful gardens while sampling all this magnificent food,” Cortez said. “And the way we set up the event, regardless of where you’re at, you’ll hear music.”
Taste of Hawaii debuted the first festival of its kind in the state in 1987 at Coco Palms. Then, the goal was to put on a food festival with about 15 chefs and to sell 500 tickets.
Since then, the event has grown to encompass all of Smith’s Tropical Paradise’s 30-acre botanical and cultural garden. The Rotary Club of Kapaa caps ticket sales at 1,500, and they sell out every year.
Cortez says that’s about all the event can handle.
“We don’t want to grow it (too much). These chefs are donating time and food,” she said. “If you increase it to 3,000, how do you feed 3,000 people?”
Taste of Hawaii is from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Park at Vidinha Stadium and take a free shuttle over to Smith’s starting at 10 a.m. Shuttles run every 15 minutes.
Tickets are $100 online, tasteofhawaii.net, or $125 at the door if available.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.