Side Orders • April 7, 2016

WEEKEND BUZZ . . . Maui restaurant gossip was buzzing louder than bees swarming a hive at Maui County Agricultural Festival on Saturday on the sunny luau grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

MTP owner Mike Atherton says he’ll roll out Wagons of Waikapu down the highway a stretch and hot on the heels of The Mill House grand opening.

“Basically, Wagons of Waikapu is the old coconut stand revisited,” Atherton said, sitting at a picnic table, enjoying the food. “It will represent all types of food and agriculture here on Maui. We’ll make lemonade from lemons.”

Travis Morrin of Three’s Bar & Grill was one of the 12 chefs cooking at Grand Taste. He also had a booth at the fest called Fork & Salad.

“It’s an ag-event teaser so people can try our upcoming concept for the first time,” said Morrin. “We want to open by the end of May or early June in the old Stella Blues at Azeka Mauka in Kihei.”

Morrin says he’ll have eight different kambuchas on tap and 12 signature locavore salads that will be affordable and ready in like, three minutes.

While I didn’t hear it from Morrin, I did hear a rumor that DK Kodama of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar fame wants to open a gastro pub in the other part of the giant Stella Blues spot. For now, everyone is flocking to Nalu’s at Azeka Makai for music and fun.

Also at Grand Taste, Tylun Pang of Fairmont Kea Lani made an incredible seared Maui Cattle Co. skirt steak with Kula strawberries, sweet onion and jalapeno and said that his resort will present a MauiWine function at Luana lounge today. (See Luana story for more details.)

Ritchard Cariaga of Ka’ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui pleased palates with Kauai shrimp in palabok sauce with chives and calamansi lime. He’ll cook a five-course dinner at Andaz on Sunday collaborating with Mi Jin Kang and pair it with craft cocktails.

Winning Fan Favorite was Chef Gevin Utrillo of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa’s Japengo restaurant. He will remain in the thick of things with the Maui Tastemakers five-course dinner with six Maui Brewing Co. beers at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Utrillo will also host a cooking demo with celeb Chef Vikram Vij of Vancouver on Tuesday (see Page 18 for more details).

Michael Lofaro of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a at Grand Wailea won Best Protein with local he’e, or octopus, with limu, shiso and smoked ponzu that just popped with fab flavors. He is turning into quite the TV celebrity with “Search Hawaii: Where Food Meets Culture” that is filming future episodes for KHON-2.

Ryan Luckey of Leilani’s tied for No. 1 in Best Veggie dish with his ulu-and-corn fritter, Hana-cucumber gazpacho and haricot vert and Surfing Goat cheese cones. He tied with Sheldon Simeon of MiGrant, who wowed judges with his Olapono Farms hearts of palm and citrus gel with jerky chew, the latter not veggie – but it tasted so ono we judges had to give it a nod.

Simeon just opened Tin Roof at the old Ichiban Dairy Road location on Monday. For now, it’s open from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m., until his reign as executive chef of MiGrant ends May 15 as the restaurant will close to eventually be a Roy’s restaurant.

At Tin Roof, he’s got incredible poke bowls, chop steak, garlic shrimps and kale salad, beet boxes, ulu, or breadfruit, mac salad and more. . . By the way, I heard that MiGrant and Mala Wailea owner Shep Gordon just got back from South Korea with his old pal, Emeril Lagasse. Could a TV show be in the works?

Speaking of TV shows, I also heard through the Maui ag fest grapevine that “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was just here filming for the Food Network. Show host Guy Fieri has featured Hank’s Haute Dogs in the past, calling owner Hank Adaniya the “king of encased meats.”

Becky Speere of Maui No Ka Oi was a fellow judge. She said that her magazine’s ‘Ai Pono restaurant awards will be held this Sunday at Grand Wailea with a prize for the best Venetian Carnival costume.