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Update on winners of Rising Star Chef Awards at Halekulani

December 5, 2012 - Carla Tracy

Several Mauians and one Maui restaurant were recognized Tuesday evening at the Halekulani on Oahu at the Rising Stars Awards Banquet that featured their signature dishes.

While I wrote a story about this for Thursday’s paper, which is still over 12 hours away from hitting the stands, some late-breaking information came in just now after press time. That is why I’m blogging about it today. So I’m scooping myself, so to speak. Ah, the beauty of the internet versus print media.

The annual awards not only acknowledges up-and-coming chefs, but pastry chefs, sommeliers and mixologists from around the country who will someday soon be leaders of the national culinary scene.

Each year, selects four American markets in which to name its Rising Stars, and this year, Hawaii was picked as one of the destinations.

Hosted by Chefs Vikram Garg of Halekulani and Chai Chaowasaree of Chai’s Island Bistro, Halekulani’s gala was a walk-around tasting that gave attendees the opportunity to experience Hawaii’s top restaurants and sample cocktails from the winning mixologist and beverage pairings of Host Sommelier Kevin Tomaya.

“With its bountiful local pantry and cultural variety, Hawaii is an ambitious melting pot of culinary talent,” says Editor-in-Chief Antoinette Bruno. “Hawaii chefs take time-honored customs and turn them on their heads to create a vibrant, exciting cuisine.”

“Hawaii is about creativity and custom,” adds Will Blunt, managing editor of “From island to island, chefs are balancing sophisticated, modern innovations with an underlying celebration of local food culture.”

More than 50 Hawaiian candidates were considered through in-person tastings and interviews.

The late-breaking new is that the Voter’s Choice Award went to Alan Wong’s Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka for her lilikoi brulee layered with pate de fruit, lilikoi sorbet with tuile and custard.

Karr-Ueoka’s boss, James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong also won the Mentor Award as voted by the Rising Stars Chefs. Wong has two restaurants with his name on it, one called Alan Wong’s Amasia at Grand Wailea and the original one simply called Alan Wong’s on King Street on Oahu — where President Obama and his family eat when they’re on island.

From Maui, the 2012 Rising Stars Award’s chef winners were Jojo Vasquez of the Plantation House in Kapalua, who wowed judges with his Australian lamb rack, eggplant puree and chickpea cake.

Christopher Kulis of Capische? at Hotel Wailea also used Australian meat, making beef carpaccio with horseradish aioli, radish, lemon oil, fried capers and parmigiano-regiano cheeses. Cameron Lewark of Spago at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea excelled with his fresh onaga ceviche with green papaya salad, kaffir lime, coconut shavings and passionfruit flower.

Another late-breaking tidbit that won’t appear in Thursday’s paper is that Capische? won the Restaurant of Distinction.

In the category of Best Concept Chef, Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Lahaina rose like cream to the top with his featured dish of Hapa Ramen, packed with roast pork, poached egg, bamboo shoots, kamaboko, bok choy, mayu and spicy miso.

As for the Pastry Chef category, Elizabeth McDonald of Honu Seafood & Pizza in Lahaina impressed tasters with her vegan chocolate-mousse cake. Candidates were nominated by an advisory board, previous winners, media and online viewers. For more details, visit Star Chefs Website.


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Chef Alan Wong won the Mentor Award