August 29th, 2016
While at the Sheraton Waikiki, chef Colin Hazama's reverence for the work that farmers do to sustain us, led to the start of his Table to Farm dinner series. Now, as executive chef of The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, he has introduced the combination dinner-farm tour concept via "Fanta-Sea," this time focusing on an epicurean journey by sea.
The most recent two-day event started with a chef’s dinner on Aug. 26 at Azure restaurant, followed by an Aug. 27 excursion to Kualoa Ranch's Moli'i Fishpond for a tour and gourmet lunch. Both meals were presented by Hazama and Azure sous chef Colin Sato.
At the heart of the meal was Kualoa's farm-fresh oysters, Pacific white shrimp, toau, and 100 percent grass-fed beef.
The toau was a revelation on two levels. First, the blacktail snapper is delicious. The reason we don't hear more about it is because it's an invasive species deemed a rubbish fish because it doesn't have commercial value as long as people don't know about it.
It also provides a cautionary tale about nature's delicate balance and how man's shortsighted ideas for improving on nature can yield unexpected results and wreak havoc on a fragile environment.
The species was introduced from Tahiti in 1956, with the idea that the tasty, delicate white fish could become a cash crop. But it is a carnivorous night-feeding fish that fed on the fishpond's day-feeding herbivores, including more popular eating fish such as the mullet, whose populations have plummeted.
Old timers would say that we should not try to improve on nature, but we must accept and adjust to what the land and sea give us. At the moment, it seems to be telling us to eat more of what we consider to be rubbish fish such as toau and ta'ape. But it is a hard sell. Because of the cost of going out to eat, no one wants to take a chance on the unknown. So we continue to order the fish we recognize: ahi, onaga, opakapaka, opah.
Educational cuisine programs such as Fanta-Sea go a long way in introducing new ways to think about the food we eat and the impact of our choices.
Next: Day 2 field trip!
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.