By Nadine Kam
Nadine Kam photos
Brendan Marshall, founder of Kitchit, the home of bespoke dining, makes a bid for investor dollars during Sept. 7's "Afternoon with 500 Startups: Battle of the Food Geeks," for investor dollars.
A day session on Day 2 of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Sept. 7, aimed to show the connections between food, agriculture, community and technology.
I had an early lunch meeting that day, so couldn't make it to the first event,
Building a Sense of Plate and Place." Ed Kenney was the moderator of a panel that included presenters Keone Kealoha of Malama Kauai, Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch, Mark Noguchi and special guest Josh Feathers, who shared their stories on building food communities.
Afterward, there was a smackdown that pitted Masaharu Morimoto against Ming Tsai, as a prelude to "Hawaii in a Bowl: From Poi Bowl to Pho Chefs" lunch featuring pa'i'ai from Mana Ai, phó from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door, fish from Colin Hazama of The Sheraton Waikiki, abalone from "Iron Chef" Hiroyuki Sakai, and creations by Side Street Inn's Colin Nishida, and Foodland's Keoni Chang.
I had a lunch meeting at Mariposa before heading to The Modern for the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival's day event. I had the soft shell crab salad, so wasn't particularly hungry when I arrived.
Then I heard Chef Sakai was serving abalone, and I couldn't resist trying it, having missed out on chef Chai Chaowasaree's abalone the night before.
Then, in the afternoon, the "Battle of the Food Geeks" pit a handful of food-oriented startups in a pitch war to gain favor with Dave McClure and his panel of chef judges: Sang Yoon of Lukshon and Father's Office; Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Street; Lee Anne Wong of Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats"; event co-founder Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's Restaurants; and Christina Grdovic, publisher of Food & Wine magazine.
McClure is a founding partner of 500 Startups, an Internet startup seed fund and accelerator program based in Mountain View, Calif. One tends to think of old-time geeks as building their Internet companies over pizzas and Chinese takeout, but as geeks have become successful, they've become eager students of the better things in life, and McClure said, "We're not accustomed to working with food startups but ... All of a sudden, food has become a geeky pursuit."
Who knew, only five years ago, that so many would take so much pleasure in photographing their food and sharing those pictures on several social media sites? They want to take the next food startup to the next level.
Also couldn't pass up Colin Hazama's skewered fish.
First to present was Brendan Marshall, founder of Kitchit, the home of bespoke dining. The former investment banker is seeking to democratize private dining by giving restaurant chefs a way to connect with people who want to hire them for a dinner party. So chefs like Marcel Vigneron or Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen could come to your house and cook for you. Of course, the most famous can also command appearance fees of $25,000 or more on top of the price of your meal. Of course the question raised by the panel was, what's to stop a client from just calling the chef? Which is, of course, how things are done in Hawaii.
Also presenting was Tealet's Elyse Peterson, whose site puts tea lovers in touch with premium tea growers, cutting out the middle man to offer the buyer a purer and less expensive product. Then came Abby Sturges of Culture Kitchen, which packages recipes and ingredients for authentic ethnic cuisines to destinations where such ingredients are hard to come by.
It was interesting to sit there and consider if you would back any of these businesses with your own dollars.
Elyse Peterson talks up Tealet before the judges.
Ingredients for Charles Phan's phó. A dish was made for me, but I got up to take a photo, and when I returned, someone else was eating my phó.
Relaxing after the morning session were Town's David Caldiero, left, and Ed Kenney, with his mom Beverly Noa and wife Kristen.