Maui Onion Festival

The event is a recipe for success. And, it’s been that way for the past 24 years.

We’re talking about the Maui Onion Festival, which will sweeten up Whalers Village in Kaanapali from morning to after dark on Saturday.

The annual favorite is family friendly and free and open to the public. It turns one of Maui’s most endearing crops into tasty dishes such as crisp Maui Onion rings, and blends in live music, hula, a farmers market and lots of fun chef demos and competitions on two stages.

“Whalers Village signature event since 1990, the festival will be more dynamic than ever, summoning the creativity of Maui’s greatest chefs, and drawing a crowd for the free culinary samples and a fun-packed day,” says Lisa Donlon, the mall’s marketing manager.

“Here’s a chance to learn about Maui’s prime Upcountry agricultural crop through the dazzling interpretations of our island chefs and the great restaurants of Kaanapali,” Donlon continues.

Emcee Ramsay Wharton, an anchor of “Hawaii News Now” on KGMB, will kick things off with a warm welcome at 9:45 p.m. Then the chef demonstrations will begin and tastes will be given out.

First up at 10 a.m. will be guest chef Kevin Hanney of Oahu’s SALT and 12th Avenue Grill, both hugely popular and the talk of gourmets.

Wowing onlookers next will be Chris Kulis of Capische in Hotel Wailea, noted as the place where, “French food meets Italy at the top of Wailea.”

Four Kaanapali chefs will compete in the final round of the Kaanapali Restaurant Recipe Contest at 10:30 a.m. on the center stage. The lone winner will then be announced and honored at noon. The good news for diners is, you may savor their dishes today and Friday at their various resort restaurants.

The entrants are Chef Marc Urquidi of Roy’s Kaanapali, who rose like cream to the top on the opening round of the competition last week; Executive Chef Greg Grohowski of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa; Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu, an Italian Grill at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas; and fourth place winner Jennifer Evetushick, Chef de Cuisine of Tropica Restaurant & Bar oceanfront at Westin Maui Resort & Spa.

Popular repeat Chef James McDonald of Aina Gourmet Market, I’o Restaurant and The Feast at Lele in West Maui will do a chef demo at 11:30 a.m.

After the winner of the recipe contest is announced at noon, last year’s winner Chef Jojo Vasquez of Plantation House in Kapalua will take the stage that surely be aromatic with his new creations.

The chef demo lineup will keep heating things up with one of Maui’s beloved, Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, whose recent claim to fame is as the Best Chef on Maui according to the ‘Aipono Awards and as a finalist in the Bravo Channel’s “Top Chef” cable television show.

Then Nick Mastrascusa, a native of Uruguay and chef at Beach Tree at ‘Ulu at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island, will impress onlookers. These top chefs will also compete in a recipe cook off at 4:30 p.m.

Pay-for food at booths by Maui Fish & Pasta, Royal Lahaina Resort, ‘Aina Gourmet Market, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Kahana Grill will tempt you as will fun non-alcoholic drinks by Aloha Bars.

Hula Grill is sponsoring the Maui Onion Ring booth, and Maui County Farm Bureau will do a farmers market with fresh fruits and vegetables. There will also be free lei making, face painting and entertainment.

Counting more than 90 shops and restaurants, Whalers Village is a premier beachfront shopping as well as dining destination. Now through Saturday, shoppers will ge a free gift if spending $150 or more.

“Prime retail offers, music, and entertainment provide a perfect balance for all that good food,” adds Donlon. “Do come and celebrate with us!”