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DK Kodama wins Maui Onion Recipe Contest

May 17, 2011 - Carla Tracy

Acclaimed Oahu-based Chef Dave “DK” Kodma won top prize at the Maui Onion Recipe Contest at the 22nd Annual Maui Onion Festival recently at Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants in Kaanapali.

Kodama owns and operates seven restaurants on three islands, including four Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bars, d.k. Steak House, VINO Italian Tapas & Wine Bar and Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas.

Kodama and his team have garnered a plethora of awards, rave reviews and acknowledgements including highest food ratings in Zagat Hawaii Restaurant Surveys, inclusion as one of Bon Appetit’s “Favorite Asian Restaurants” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars in Travel + Leisure.

As one of the judges, I have to say that all of the dishes were outstanding. But the one created by Kodama burst with fabulous flavors that just didn’t quit. Kodama’s winning dish was Maui Onion, Kekaha Shrimp & Lobster Cake with Swiss Chard, Hamakua Alii Mushrooms and Lobster Uni Sauce.

The annual event pitted Kodama against other top chefs such as last year’s winner: James McDonald of Pacific’o and i‘o Restaurants; as well as Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Restaurants; Chef Brian Etheredge of Capische; Chef Eric Arbogast of Cuarto; and Chef David Paul Johnson of David Paul’s Island Grill.

Visiting emcees Manolo Morales of KHON 2 and Cutty Cutler led all of the center stage and beachfront lawn activities. In addition to yours truly, this year’s Maui Onion Recipe Contest judges included Chris Speere, coordinator, Maui Culinary Academy; Shannon Wianecki, assistant editor & dining/food writer, Maui No Ka Oi magazine; and Mike Horn, co-host, CRN’s What’s Cooking radio show.

Other top winners included Wayne Finlinson, 34, of St. George, Utah (adult) and Dante Gramuglia, 10 and a 5th grader at Princess Nahienaena Elementary School (keiki) who won their respective divisions in the Raw Maui Onion Eating Contests.

Chef Kevin Boyle of Umalu of The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa who took first place in the Maui Onion Challenge, a two-week appetizer challenge among eight restaurants in Kaanapali Beach Resort. You may find this dish at Umalu, of course.

The farmers belonging to the Maui Onion Growers Association who had the longest line throughout the day, selling more than 600 pounds of their tempura-style Maui Kula Onion rings. Well-known Pukalani resident Tom Huelsman was spotted hanging out with his farmer pals.

Held annually in honor of the Maui Kula Onion, Maui?s most famous agricultural export, the festival brought Maui’s upcountry and agricultural heritage to Kaanapali.

“It was an amazing event. Attendance was up and the retail shops, restaurants and festival vendors were busier than ever.,” said Lisa Donlon, marketing manager of Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants.

Participating Maui Onion Challenge restaurants included CJ‘s Deli & Diner at the Fairway Shops, Black Rock Steak & Seafood at Sheraton Maui, Tiki Terrace Restaurant at Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Cane & Taro, Pulehu at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, Tropica Restaurant & Bar at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, and Royal Lahaina Resort’s Ocean Terrace. The general public was encouraged to dine at participating Kaanapali restaurants to taste and score the festured appetizers. Consumers were eligible to win a trip for two between Maui and any non-stop destination serviced by Alaska Airlines.

Reflections Photography took the attached pictures


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DK Kodama's winning shrimp and lobster cake