Empty Bowl project

As usual, the third annual Empty Bowl Project will be a street festival and a half with inspired cuisine, outstanding art and fun entertainment.

In a nutshell, or, rather a bowl, the famed Star Noodle in Lahaina will once again team with the Maui Organization for the Ceramic Arts for two worthy causes, Maui Food Bank and Hale Mahaolu – as well as other local organizations.

The party will spill out onto Star Noodle’s parking lot from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12.

The premise is that Maui artisans will hand craft ceramic bowls that will be sold for a $25 donation at the event. Your purchase will remind you of all of the empty bowls in the world, and all proceeds will generously go to the above nonprofits. Plus, you get a keepsake to take home.

“Empty Bowl Project is a true reflection of what our mission at Na Hoaloha Ekolu is all about,” says Kaala Buenconsejo, director of marketing for the restaurant group, which also includes Old Lahaina Lu’au, Aloha Mixed Plate, Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop and Hoaloha Culinary Center. “We strive to give back to our community from our keiki to kupuna.”

The $25 donation also includes a “free” visit to the Empty Bowl Project’s noodle bar station, brimming with aromatic hapa ramen and faux pho.

“As a local boy, born and raised here on Maui, I am very excited to be able to give back to the community at such a meaningful charity event,” says Star Noodle’s Executive Chef Gemsley Balagso.

“Let’s fight the hunger of our unfortunate people,” he continues. “And let them be filled with joy and happiness, knowing that we care about them.”

Executive Chef Balagso goes on to say that the noodle bar will let you “create” your own soup concoction with items such as bok choy, bamboo shoots, julienne egg and bean sprouts. Just point to what garnishes you want, and chefs will add it.

You may also buy scrips to experience a wide array of other local flavors and dishes, street-fair style.

“This year, we have added a twist to the street-fair experience,” says the chef. “I’ve invited three of West Maui’s favorite chefs: Jojo Vasquez, from The Plantation House Restaurant; Anton Haines, of Pacific’o and O’o Farm; and Lyndon Honda of Laulima Events & Catering. I want to thank them for donating their time to help others.”

“I’m super excited to participate in the Empty Bowl Project,” says Haines, who will make Schezwan peppercorn chicken with Chinese long beans, packed with just enough creeping, smoky heat that backs down before it gets too hot.

“It’s for a great cause,” Haines continues. And, it’s always a lot of fun to work with the ‘boyz’ – well, actually, it’s never all work when we get together.”

Plantation House’s Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez will make tonkatsu and furikake rice bowl and shredded cabbage with his housemade sauce and pickles.

“Supporting the Empty Bowl Project is a wonderful opportunity to give back and help fight hunger,” says Vasquez. “As chefs, our passion is to cook and feed others, and to be able to extend our reach to help the more underserved members of our community. At the same time, we get to collaborate with our peers on a fun evening for Lahaina. It’s a blessing all around.”

Chef-owner Honda of Laulima Events & Catering will do bacon-shrimp dashi okayu (Japanese rice porridge) with uni, unagi and longanisa (Filipino sausage) with parmesan shavings.

“It’s a great event for a noble cause, and having Michael Moore’s company bring in other chefs, it really changes things up, and it’ll be fun,” says Honda.

“Come enjoy the guest chefs’ takes on street food,” adds Belagso. “I’ll be doing sous vide (braised) kalbi short ribs with Star Noodle kim chee.”

When attendees walk into the parking lot, taiko drummers will be pounding out a beat. DJs will spin music and pay-for signature cocktails, wine, beer and sake will keep things going under the stars.

“All of the chefs will go onstage and be making bowls,” says Buenconsejo. “And we’ll have an emcee, who will then auction off their bowls.”

Also making an appearance that evening will be the new Starstruck food truck, selling nori-wrapped chicken, larb spring rolls and green papaya salad.

Last year’s Empty Bowl Project was a huge success. More than 700 people bought 400 bowls. Star Noodle donated $5,000 each to Maui Food Bank and Hale Mahaolu and $2,000 to Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team. This year, come to Star Noodle’s premiere fundraising event.