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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Eating And Drinking To Feed The Hungry

In recent years, Hawaii has witnessed an increase in not just the number of food and wine events, but the quality of the events themselves. We’re still months away from the highly anticipated Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in October, but there are a dozen or so impressive events on the horizon before then. One that creates great excitement is Hawaii Foodbank’s annual fundraiser, Great Chefs Fight Hunger.

For the food bank staff, a group that works tirelessly to raise money for and awareness of the plight of food-insecure families in Hawaii, Great Chefs provides much-needed funds to feed the hungry – and a welcome opportunity for great fun.

“It really is one of our favorite nights of the year,” says Hawaii Foodbank director of development Polly Kauahi. “Seeing all the chefs together in one place – and all of them cooking with a passion to help people in need – it’s really a wonderful event.”

The idea for the fundraiser was sparked by D.K. Kodama. “D.K. came to us with the idea after participating for years in a Taste of the NFL on the Mainland,” says Polly. “He is so passionate and so dedicated to helping the community, and he came to us and said, ‘Come on, we have to do this for Hawaii!’”

Ten years later, the event is going strong and features the kind of friendly culinary competition among top local chefs that results in amazing dishes.

This year, newcomer Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto will take part, along with a very busy Chai Chaowasaree (whose new restaurant, Chef Chai, opened last month at Pacifica Honolulu on Kapiolani). Included in the stellar lineup of restaurants are 12th Avenue Grill, HASR Bistro, Himalayan Kitchen, Hokulani Bake Shop, Le Bistro, Roy’s, SALT, Taste Table, The Whole Ox and Halekulani Hotel. You’ll find a full list of participating restaurant on the Hawaii Foodbank website.

The grazing event March 23 is held at the Hawaii Foodbank headquarters, an impressive 23,000-square-foot warehouse close to Nimitz Highway. The nonprofit food bank tries to keep a 30-day supply of food on hand, but a walk around the towering shelves, many of them empty, gives a great perspective on the problems of keeping enough food.

“When you come in the warehouse, you realize how far we are from our goal,” says Kauahi. “We’re currently running at about 15 days’ supply, which is about normal for the Islands. Anytime we fall into single digits is a time for panic.”

As you might expect, the beverage industry comes out in full support of the event, so expect to see dozens of creative cocktails, fine wines and specialty beers as part of the experience.

Filling 23,000 square feet of space with tables, chef stations, mini kitchens, a stage for live music, bars and wine tastings is quite a production, and the night of the fundraiser requires a little planning of its own.

Kauahi has tips for those who may be attending for the first time.

“You need to have a strategic plan,” she laughs. “We don’t know of too many people who actually make it to all of the chef stations, so we suggest walking through the event first to scope out what’s there, then eating and drinking your way back around. ”

Maps are provided for those who want to get serious about a plan of attack, and more information about cost and VIP early entry can be found online at hawaiifoodbank.org.

If you want to catch some of Hawaii’s finest all in one place and enjoy eating and drinking for a great cause, then go online and get tickets while they last.

Happy eating!

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