Grand Taste: ‘Dine Around’ at Ag Fest in one convenient spot

Maui County Agricultural Festival offers event upgrades for foodies outdoors on luau grounds at Maui Tropical Plantation

West Maui chefs in Grand Taste are Robert Barrera (from left) of Cane & Canoe; Alvin Savella of The Banyan Tree; Jacob Arakawa of Pailolo Bar & Grill, Charlie Owen of Hula Grill Kaanapali, Lyndon Honda, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa; Ryan Luckey, Leilani's on the Beach; and Gevin Utrillo, Japengo. Maui County Agricultural Festival photos

Thousands of Maui residents and visitors will saddle up to Waikapu from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, for the Maui County Agricultural Festival. It’s a family-friendly affair, casual and fun. Bring eco-friendly shopping bags and your appetites as well.

The prime event to raise awareness about Maui County ag will celebrate its 11th year outdoors at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Those in the ag industry, allies and supporters will gather on the luau grounds to share the fruits of their labor on rural lands throughout the county and to showcase ag’s vital role in the economy, environment and lifestyle here.

Admission is nominally priced at $5 for adults, and free for kupuna 65 and older and keiki 18 and younger. You will find plenty of food to buy a la carte at vendors or you may upgrade to attend events within the event.

Favorite food events that day to upgrade to will be the Maui Legacy Pancake Breakfast at 8 a.m. and the Grand Taste from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. All upgrade events are priced separately, include admision to the ag fest — and are worth every last bite. Preceding the ag fest on April 5 will be the popular Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner, also at Maui Tropical Plantation.

“Grand Taste is my favorite food event on Maui,” says Charlene Ka’uhane, event organizer. “It’s not my favorite because I’m involved, it’s simply the best opportunity for anyone who wants to eat locally sourced food. It’s especially great this year with 14 chef stations. And it’s priced so that everyone and anyone can participate and enjoy the amazing food grown and raised here and prepared by some of Maui’s best chefs.”

Each chef will make a dish to highlight his restaurant.

Grand Taste is also one of the best ways to do a “dine around” of isle restaurants all in one convenient location — and you may meet the chefs behind the food. Plus, it’s a great deal for the dollar.

“The best part about Grand Taste is seeing what the chefs do to create dishes where the local ingredient is the star, especially vegetables and fruits,” says Warren K. Watanabe, executive director of Maui County Farm Bureau. “It’s good to see and learn how to make main courses featuring a few local ingredients as the main ingredients.”

New chefs this year include Jayse Sato of the new Umi Maui on Vineyard Street in Wailuku. He’ll impress diners with ono nachos of ono poke over fried won ton chips, Asian salsa, avocado puree and truffle-kabayaki sauce topped with micro cilantro. Geno Sarmiento of Nick’s Fishmarket Maui at Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea will make hamachi crudo with Hawaiian-chili-citrus vinaigrette made of ingredients from Pauwela Produce in Kula.

“Nick’s Fishmarket will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall, so it is essential to present a dish that has been a longtime favorite on our menu, featuring the best our island home offers,” says Sarmiento, the corporate chef of Tri-Star restaurant group that is the umbrella for Nick’s, Sarento’s on the Beach and Son’z Steakhouse. “The hamachi highlights the abundance our seas provide while the Hawaiian citrus vinaigrette with harvest by Pauwela Produce showcases our fertile lands.”

More newbies to Grand Taste are Jacob Arakawa of Pailolo Bar & Grill at The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, making ulu arepas de pastor from local ulu, or breadfruit, mixed in corn cakes with marinated Malama Farm Berkshire pork belly, pineapple pico de gallo and aji amarillo sauce; and Charles Andres of Humble Market Kitchin by Roy Yamaguchi, who will kiawe-smoke aku with ulu brandade and serve it with preserved Kula Meyer-lemon aioli, pohole-fern salsa verde and black-garlic-and-taro hummus for dishes that pop with flavor.

Last year’s Grand Taste participant Isaac Bancaco (left) of Andaz Maui at Wailea shakes the hand of host Chef Jeff Scheer of The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation.

The festival newbies and repeat chefs alike will all enter dishes to win Best Protein, Best Vegetarian, Fan Favorite (voted by the crowd) and Judges Choice that will be deemed Best Overall.

“A lot of people these days refer to themselves as ‘foodies,’ taking photos of dishes they love, but it’s critical to spotlight the foundation of these delicious, nutritious and beautiful-looking dishes,” Sarmiento adds. “Everything starts with our farmers, so as a chef, I do what I can to support them.”

Host Chef Jeff Scheer of The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation will showcase Maui Cattle Co. strip loin in a grilled-beef salad with Hawaiian chili, fish sauce, scallions, citrus, mint, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, lemongrass and ginger. Go ahead and Thai one of these on for size. Scheer is among the best chefs on Maui, and word has it that he and his wife are brand new parents, to boot. Do congratulate him when you see him.

“These events are always something we look forward to being a part of,” says Scheer. “The goals here at The Mill House are big. We work to be a part of a community conversation about diversified agriculture and how Maui can really feed itself. Also, these events provide an opportunity to connect with all the chefs and farmers from this island.”

Other Grand Chef participants are Alvin Savella of The Banyan Tree at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, who will make Maui Monte Cristos with Hawaiian sweet bread, Malama Farm pork, ‘Aina Lani Farms black raspberry jam, gruyere and foie-gras torchon; Charlie Owen of Hula Grill Ka’anapali who will do Malama Farm pork potstickers served with local citrus ponzu, spicy pickled papaya and micro basil.

Maui Cattle Co. beef and Malama Farm pork highlight the island’s ranching element during events at the ag fest.

The Grand Chef list continues with Justin Pardo of Merriman’s Kapalua doing chilled corn vichyssoise; Lyndon Honda of Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa with kalo fried rice served with kalo pork-hash pastele; Gevin Utrillo of Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa creating Singapore-style shrimp with pineapple-shiso shave ice and Adoboloco hot sauce; Marc McDowell of Hali’imaile General Store making ahi cakes on Komoda Store slider buns with cucumber kimchi slaw; Robert Barrera of Cane & Canoe at Montage Kapalua Bay roasting Maui Nui venison loin with braised red cabbage, poached Asian pear and watercress; Ryan Luckey of Leilani’s on the Beach mixing springtime panzanella salad with Maui’s bounty of tomatoes; and Travis Morrin of Three’s Bar & Grill going for the gusto with Maui Cattle Co. beef tartare with 147-degree sous-vide yolk.

In order for the chefs to do a good job in securing ingredients and staffing, it’s best to reserve your ticket as soon as possible in advance. Plus you get a price break from at-the-door tickets.

Grand Taste fast facts:

Held in the large tent, the Grand Taste will feature foods from 14 top island chefs from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. April 7 at Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Cost is $30 in advance and $40 day of the event. For tickets, visit or go on the www.EventBrite website.


The Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. April 5 at Maui Tropical Plantation will feature Executive Pastry Chef Ricky DeBoer of Fairmont Kea Lani (from left) and Chefs Adam Rzeczkowski of Bistro Molokini, Charlie Owen of Hula Grill Kaanapali and Alvin Savella of The Banyan Tree among three other chefs not seen here.

Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner

Leading up to the ag fest will be the Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, April 5. This is for people who’d like to be pampered at dinner with gourmet cuisine cooked by a handful of top chefs.

“Participants will prepare food in the action stations in the Chefs Kitchen in The Mill House Restaurant at Maui Tropical Plantation,” says Kauhane of how it will play out. “All chefs will help plate, and guests will be served by course.”

Montage Kapalua Bay Executive Chef Chris Damskey will represent Cane & Canoe with Kula strawberries, keiki beets, Surfing Goat Dairy cheese, wasabi, mac nuts and shiso. Chef de Cuisine Adam Rzeczkowski of Bistro Molokini at Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort will slice kampachi into crudo with calamansi kosho vinaigrette, shaved radish, grapefruit and miso for a refreshing appetizer.

Executive Chef Owen of Hula Grill Kaanapali will do a dish of Malama Farm country ham with pickled kumquat, buttermilk cracker and macadamia-nut honey. Executive Pastry Chef Ricky DeBoer of Fairmont Kea Lani will tempt with Molokai sweet potato mushi, brown-butter banana bar and Kula lilikoi buttermilk cake.

The Maui County Agricultural Festival will offer an amazing array of food options from top isle vendors to a farmers market with value-added products.

Others in the Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner include Host Chef Scheer of The Mill House, Chef Savella of The Banyan Tree and Chef-owner Kyle Kawakami of the acclaimed Maui Fresh Streatery food truck and catering business. While their dishes have not been planned, Scheer will make a beef course, Savella will do a main entree and Kawakami will make passed appetizers.

“There is limited seating to this dinner,” says Ka’uhane. “Specify in notes if you would like to sit next to other guests. It will be tables of six or eight at the event. We will do our best to accommodate seating requests. And for beverages, there will be a no-host bar.”

“The main thing is, the feast is a fundraiser for the Maui County Farm Bureau’s Grown on Maui program and ag-fest Maui,” she says.

Chefs Collaboration Dinner fast facts:

The sit-down feast will be from 6 to 9 p.m. April 5 at The Mill House in the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Cost is $75 per adult 21 and older. No host bar with Pau Vodka, MauiWine and Maui Brewing Co. pouring. Visit


Maui Legacy Farmers Pancake Breakfast

Sponsored by Alexander & Baldwin, the Maui Legacy Farmers Pancake Breakfast will pay tribute to honorees “Lindy” Sutherland of Kaupo Ranch and HC&S; Chuck Boerner of Ono Organic Farm; and the late Dr. Phil Parvin of the College of Tropical Ag and Human Resources.

The hearty pancake breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. in an open-air tent on the luau grounds.

“Fill up on a delicious buffet of pancakes with syrup, bacon, sausage, eggs, juice and hot coffee,” says Ka’uhane. “Breakfast entertainment includes bingo and a unique ag fest raffle with items such as tropical plants, Grown on Maui produce boxes and restaurant gift certificates. The grand prize for bingo is a two-night stay at Maui Coast Hotel and the grand prize for raffle is a dinner for four at Roy’s Ka’anapali.”

Do you just want to attend the ag fest and check out the food booths instead of attending the pancake breakfast and/ or the Grand Taste? Then come and check out the humble crops transformed into satisfying meals. Food booths are Fork & Salad, Roselani Ice Cream, Shaka Pops, Maui Fresh Streatery and Three’s Bar & Grill. You may also enjoy live entertainment, tram rides and a Keiki Zone.

“There are a lot of reasons to support local agriculture. The most straightforward and most natural reason: Fresh is the best,” concludes Sarmiento. “When produce, meat and fish are fresh, their natural flavors shine because there is no chef better than Mother Nature. It’s also important to support our community of farmers, ranchers and fisheries who are our extended family.”

Maui Legacy Farmers Pancake Breakfast

Wake up to a hearty breakfast buffet at 8 a.m. April 7 featuring pancakes with syrup, bacon, sausage, eggs juice and hot coffee. Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for kupuna 65 and older and for children ages 5 to 12. Adults who buy a ticket get in free to the ag fest.