Calling all of you looking to attend a free and fun family event. The 20th annual Maui Onion Festival will be held Saturday at Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants in Kaanapali and there will be tons of things to do, see, eat and drink.
"2009 marks the 20th anniversary for the Maui Onion Festival and we're very pleased to have Guy Hagi of KGMB 9 as our emcee, along with a great group of celebrity chefs participating in a festival that honors Maui's most famous export," says Lisa Donlon, the marketing manager of Whalers.
"The combination of top Maui and Oahu chefs make for great cooking demonstrations and also creates an air of friendly competition during the Maui Onion recipe contest. Last year's recipe contest winner, Chef Russell Siu, is returning and hopes to make it two wins in a row."
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Participants at this year’s festival include Maui Kula Onion farmer Bryan Otani (left) and Chef Patrick Callarec of Chez Paul. There will be tons of food to buy and admission is free for the whole family.
Entries will be judged by Rick Browne, host of the PBS series "Barbecue America"; Chris Speere, program coordinator of the Maui Culinary Academy; Carla Tracy, dining editor of The Maui News; and Shannon Wianecki, associate editor at Maui No Ka 'Oi magazine.
"It's a great family event and, as an added value, parking will be FREE all day!" adds Donlon.
In addition, special promos and pre-event festivities are running now through Saturday and include retail discounts, free gift with purchase promotion and Maui Onion pairing dinner at Hula Grill.
Maui Onion Festival fast facts
* Where: Outdoors at Beach Lawn and Center Stage of Whalers Village in Kaanapali.
* When: From 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
* Admission: Free and open to the public. You may buy food and drink at nominal costs.
* Parking: Free all day at Whalers parking garage.
* Festival highlights: Chef demos, food samplings, keiki and adult Maui Onion eating contests, professional recipe contest, live music, hula and Tahitian dance performances, beer garden, farmers market, and food booths.
* Participating chefs: Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise; Colin Nishida of Side Street Inn; Patrick Callarec of Chez Paul, James McDonald of I'o and Pacific'o; David Paul Johnson of David's Paul's Island Grill.
* Maui Onion Dinner: Will pair the famous bulb with Maui Brews beers and foods by four chefs at Hula Grill Friday.
Chefs participating with dazzling demos include Patrick Callarec of Chez Paul in Olowalu; James McDonald from Pacific'O and I'O restaurants in Lahaina; David Paul Johnson of the soon-to-open David Paul's Island Grill in Lahaina (see related story, next page) and Oahu chefs Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise, and Colin Nishida from Side Street Inn.
"Chefs everywhere look at the Maui Onion as an inspirational source for flavor and consistency," says Johnson. "It seems only natural that Maui would have some of the best onions in the world considering our rich volcanic soil and our beautiful tropical weather. I am honored to once again be part of this great event."
Chef Callarec says "I use quite a bit of the Maui Onions in the soup in my restaurant," he says. "It's good for my breath."
At the festival, Callarec will demonstrate how to make his famous Maui Onion soup baked in an onion shell and served with Manchego cheese.
He'll also have a food booth, serving rich caramelized Maui Onion and goat cheese tart with lamb and arugula salad and Santa Fe red chile sauce.
Attendees must pay a nominal fee for the food at the various booths, and may line up for free tastes at the chef demos, on a first- come-first-served basis.
Other vendors include Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar with Maui Onion tacos; Marriott Maui Ocean Club with Maui Onion chowder; Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa with Amaretto Maui Onion truffles and Maui Onion roasted pork loin; and Nikki's Pizza with shave ice.
Chef Siu will demonstrate sauteed ahi with Maui Onion and garlic cream sauce. Roy's Kahana, Maui Jelly Factory and Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm will all be on hand with yummy products.
Of course, the most sought-after food item of all will be the crispy, fried Maui Onion rings provided by the Maui Onion Growers Association.
"We bring about 500 to 700 pounds of the crispy, fried Maui Onion rings and we batter and deep-fry them in woks," says farmer Bryan Otani, who has planted 15 acres in Maui Kula Onions on his 60-acre spread Upcountry. "We'll also sell four to six pounds of onions in gift boxes for you to take home with you."
Thirsty festival-goers of the adult kind will find icy cold beers by the Kona Brewing Co. Beer Garden at Leilani's Kapalua Room next to Whalers.
There will also be the grown-on-Maui farmers market and Whalers logo wear available for purchase.
"This is our signature event," Donlon says. "And we will offer a full slate of fun activities."
On the Center Stage, the schedule starts at 10 a.m. with opening remarks by Guy Hagi, followed by chef demos and tastings, then the Maui Onion eating contests (keiki and adult divisions), Polynesian hula show, Maui Onion recipe contest and Tahitian dance show.
At the Beach Lawn Stage, the fun also starts at 10 a.m. with a Tahitian show, followed by TV Celebrity Chef Cutty Cutler showing kids how to make fresh Hawaiian smoothies, Maui Onion Growers "talking story" about the history and cultivation of the famous bulb, live performances by The Air Force Band of the Pacific, Benoit Jazz- Works, Polynesian Hula Show and island sounds by Ray Gooliak. The day closes with a "hana hou" by The Air Force Band of the Pacific. All in all, it will be good time out and about with the family.