North Shore Food Summit
BY NADINE KAM / email@example.com
Participants and speakers from a cross-section of the food system industry gathered for the second annual North Shore Food Summit that took place Thursday and Friday at Waimea Valley and Turtle Bay Resort.
The event focused on the goal of sustainability and the health of Hawaii's people by restoring ancestral abundance and encouraging a diet built around such nutritious foods as taro and ulu.
I had hoped to make it both days for Thursday's farm, lo'i and fishpond tours, but for townies, it's a big commmitment to get to the North Shore early and I was only able to make it to Friday's talks. Still, it was eye-opening to hear of the work being done on the North Shore and I would recommend anyone involved in the food industry try to attend next year.
Among the Friday sessions was one that attempted to connect small restaurnts with small farmers who might be able to grow unique products per demand. With the growth of juice bars, there's increasing demand for fresh local fruit, such as starfruit and mountain apple juices, for making more exotic fare. My mouth was watering as I thought about sweet mountain apples with their rosy notes. And I don't care much for the rubbery texture of starfruit, but I'd try it in juice form.
In addition to the partnership opportunities, the summit introduced the University of Hawaii West Oahu's Food System Assessment Project. It aims to map what's in the food system, where food is being grown and where it is going — whether exported or consumed locally — and examine the implications for people and the land.
On day two of the conference, participants could select from four tracks addressing such topics as growing our farms, growing ancestral abundance, growing our community and growing our health.
Halfway through, participants enjoyed a bountiful and delicious farm-to-table lunch provided by Turtle Bay Resort chef Conrad Aquino. It was such a treat to enjoy so many vegetarian dishes, including a salad of kabocha, soybeans and cilantro, and curried lentils and vegetables. I wish more restaurants offered such dishes in Honolulu.
In the middle of lunch I saw this guy who looked like Jack Johnson walk in, but I thought, "Nah, couldn't be. Why would he be here?"
"Well, his nametag says 'Jack,'" my dining companion Sean Morris said.
Later in the afternoon, James Beard Award-winning chef Michel Nischan facilitated a discussion entitled, "Food as a Catalyst for Healthier Living," with panelists that included Washington, D.C.-based chef Spike Mendelsohn of Chef Action Network and "Top Chef"; Town and Kaimuki Superette chef/owner Ed Kenney, who is also founder of Hawaii Food Action Network; Kaiulani Odom of Kokua Kalihi Valley; and cooking instructor Gigi Miranda.
During the session, there was mention of Jack Johnson's Kokua Hawaii Foundation, so we were finally convinced it was the musician philanthropist. In talking with him after the session, he explained the natural progression from his initial environmental concerns to working with children.
One of the foundation's programs is 'Aina in the Schools, a farm-to-school initiative that connects children to the land, waters and food, focusing on fostering healthy eating habits and encouraging environmental stewardship in a way that supports farmers and their produce.
"We started with environmental education," said Johnson. "There are a lot of choices people can make as consumers, and if we start talking to kids early, plant that seed, they can make those educated decisions when they get older."
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.