It Takes A Village To Support 4-H Program

(from left) Neil Poisson, Hilton Hawaii Village executive assistant manager, and Tracy Walker, general manager, with Monica Porter, 14, Sydney Porter, 17, and executive chef Jeffrey Vigilla | Tomas de Amo photo

Hilton Hawaiian Village takes supporting the local community seriously, especially when it comes to food. From locally grown tomatoes in its luau’s lomi salmon to Kona sea salt on fresh island furikake fish at Tropics Bar and Grill, the hotel has a commitment to supporting local products – and people. So when Hilton general manager Tracy Walker received a letter from sisters Monica and Sydney Porter asking the hotel to support their 4-H program, the answer was an immediate yes.

“We were so impressed with the letter that we wanted to help support the girls and the program,” says Tracy.

The Porter sisters and their family have been involved with Hawaii’s 4-H program (where young people are encouraged to learn life skills through programs such as animal husbandry) since an early age.

“I’ve been in 4-H since I was 5 years old,” wrote Sydney, a proud member of the North Shore’s Livestock Wranglers. The 17-year-old is a veteran of the program, and this year raised a steer (Scooter) and a lamb (Lacy). Monica, age 14, raised two pigs for this year’s market (Patrick and Willy).

For a chef, it doesn’t get any better than being given the opportunity to buy a whole animal, so it didn’t take much to persuade Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeffrey Vigilla to head over to Kualoa Ranch last week to take part in the auction.

With stadium-style seating at capacity and an enthusiastic crowd of supporters and bidders, the auction was lively and loud.

“It was incredible,” says Chef Jeffrey, “to see all of the people bidding for these beautiful animals. We bid against other hotels, large companies and all kinds of people who wanted to buy an animal to celebrate a special event and support the program.”

Armed with some mighty buying power, the Hilton Hawaiian Village team purchased Scooter, Lacy, Patrick and one other hog. All will be slaughtered and delivered to the hotel sometime in August.

As the animals are of great service during their lives – helping children learn the skills associated with farming, raising livestock and then letting them go to market – so they continue to be of service after their lives are over.

“We will use the animals to offer training to all of our staff,” says Chef Jeffrey. “We will break down the entire animal and use every part, from head to tail. Being able to teach our culinary staff how to do this – to use every part of an animal with no waste – is very, very important.”

For Hilton Hawaiian Village, buying the animals at auction offered an opportunity to support the community in a strong and positive way, and Walker hopes their purchase encourages other hotels to support the program in the future. With the increasing popularity of “nose to tail” dining and a growing number of chefs committed to buying as much local livestock as possible, the 4-H program should be looking forward to some of its best years ever.

“The Porter sisters are an incredible example of the program,” says the chef. “They take so much pride in what they do. It was a pleasure to support them.”

You can look for some excellent cowboy chops, spectacular prime rib, whole pork and whole lamb shank, pork belly and lamb curry on the menu at select Hilton Hawaiian Village restaurants later this summer.

Happy eating!