Hawaiian Airlines' New Chef Series Leads a Week Full of Culinary News Out of the Aloha State

Hawaiian cuisineGot foodies heading to Hawaii this summer and beyond? Travel Agent rounds up the freshest culinary news and offers to come out of the Aloha State this week.

Hawaiian Airlines Launches New Featured Chef Series Showcasing Hawaii’s Newest Talent

Hawaiian Airlines and Executive Chef Chai Chaowasaree recently announced the launch of a new inflight culinary program serving specially-designed menu creations from five of Hawaii’s top chefs, including Jon Matsubara of Japengo; Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe; Wade Ueoka of MW Restaurant; Andrew Le of The Pig & The Lady; and Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea and MiGRANT.

Through 2017, dishes created by each local chef will be offered on a six month rotation in the First Class cabin of all flights from Hawaii to the Mainland. Chai will continue to prepare menus for all Mainland flights returning to the islands. 

The timeline for each guest chef includes:

June 1 – Nov. 30, 2015: Chef Jon Matsubara, Chef de Cuisine, Japengo Restaurant 

Matsubara has elevated Japengo to a new level in the time he has held the position of chef de cuisine. Matsubara has been featured at the James Beard House in New York City and on the Food Network, Travel Channel and the TODAY Show. Prior to Japengo, Matsubara was at Azure, where he helped the restaurant win Honolulu Magazine’s 2010 Hale Aina Award for Hawaii’s Best New Restaurant and the 2010 Ilima Award for Hawaii’s Best Restaurants Critics’ Choice.

Dec. 1, 2015 – June 1, 2016: Lee Anne Wong, owner/chef, Koko Head Cafe 

Since she traded her fashion career for the culinary world, Wong has been bringing her modern-global fusion cuisine to the people. She appeared as a “cheftestant” on season one of Bravo’s Top Chef, and later served as the show’s supervising culinary producer. In December 2013, Wong made the move from New York City to Honolulu to open up Koko Head Cafe, an island-style brunch house.

2016: Wade Ueoka, Owner/Chef, MW Restaurant 

Specialists in Hawaii regional cuisine, Wade Ueoka and his wife, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, opened their first joint venture, MW Restaurant, in Honolulu in 2013. Both have traveled around the world, and draw inspiration from their journeys, but none greater than the melting pot of Hawaii and its local bounty. In February 2014, MW Restaurant was nominated by the James Beard Foundation in the category of Best New Restaurant.

2016 –2017: Andrew Le, Creator/Owner/Chef, The Pig & The Lady

Considered one of the “new kids in the kitchen” in the Hawaii regional cuisine movement, Le is making his mark on Hawaii’s culinary scene by using his cultural roots to inspire his menus. The mastermind behind the innovative restaurant The Pig & The Lady, Le creates contemporary food featuring Vietnamese flavors – a foundation built on delicious memories first introduced by his mother. His menus have included the exotica of pandan leaves, waterlily herbs, betelnut and nuoc mam (fish sauce).

2017: Sheldon Simeon, Executive Chef, Mala Wailea and MiGRANT 

One of Hawaii Magazine’s Top 5 Best Hawaiian Chefs of 2014, Simeon offers a playful, unexpected take on classic dishes. His mix of modern cuisine and tradition create a distinctive experience that legions of loyal fans have come to love. Simeon welcomes customers to his restaurant as he would his home with a relaxed family atmosphere and the slogan “Come My House. Eat!”

Visit www.hawaiianairlines.com.

Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum Opens Tasting Room on Oahu

Manulele Distillers, home of Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum, celebrated the opening of its new tasting room in Kunia on Oahu on May 27. 

The boutique distillery is distinguished for crafting rhum agricole by pressing hand-harvested, single varietals of Native Hawaiian heirloom sugarcane, or "ko" in Hawaiian, that existed in Hawaii prior to Western contact; then distilling the juice into one of the world’s finest pure cane rums.
“A vast majority—almost 99 percent—of the world’s rum is made from molasses, the by-product of industrial sugar,” said Jason Brand, co-founder of Manu­lele Distillers LLC, in a written release. “Our process celebrates the fresh juice and individual characteristics of each cane varietal, which has taken us years to catalogue and revive.”
Sugarcane was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian explorers nearly a thousand years ago. Historically, these “canoe plants” were used for food, medicine, spiritual ceremonies and decorative materials. Cane was also used to enhance dryland production of food crops, including taro and sweet potato by blocking wind, capturing mist and producing mulch. When missionaries and other Westerners started sugar plantations in the early 1800s, they bred and imported their own commercial cane hybrids with traits favored over the indigenous Hawaii cane to increase sugar yields.

Brand and Manu­lele Distillers’ co-founder Robert Dawson’s interest in the original Hawaii varieties of sugarcane began as an investigation into sugarcane as a renewable energy source. Then the plan gave way to rum production and the first batch of Ko Hana rum was produced in 2014.

Weekly Wednesday tours and tastings are currently being offered at the distillery in Kunia from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are recommended by calling 808-649-0830 or emailing [email protected].

Visit www.kohanarum.com

Pineapple Festivals Kicks Off in July

From July 3-4, the Lanai Pineapple Festival celebrates Lanai’s history of pineapple plantations and ranching. The two-day event features a parade, a pineapple cooking contest, food, arts and crafts, games, entertainment, exhibits, and a fantastic fireworks display in Lanai City’s Dole Park. 

Visit www.lanaipineapplefestival.com

New Wine Tasting Room on Oahu

Newly opened winery tasting room in Waikiki, Oahu, Island Mana Wines specializes in food-friendly, dry tropical fruit wines made with all natural and organic fruit, along with traditional wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir from Oregon. Additionally, Island Mana Wines carries other great, small winery labels, craft beers, and ciders from Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

Visit www.islandmanawines.com

Puna Culinary Festival Set for September

Kalani presents the Puna Culinary Festival, to be held from September 2-7, for visitors to experience the abundant harvest of Hawaii Island and interact directly with the region's growers, farmer's market purveyors and food enthusiasts. Throughout the eight-day festival, attendees will enjoy meals prepared by top chefs, cooking classes, sustainable farm tours, market visits, thought-provoking workshops and more. This not-for-profit festival is helping to revitalize Puna and surrounding areas by sharing sustainability and permaculture practices championed by its innovative residents.

Visit www.punaculinaryfestival.com

Visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org and www.gohawaii.com. Follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike