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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival Celebrates the Good Life in True Island Style

As the Hawaii Food and Wine Festivalsails into the sunset for its ninth year, it does so with the blessing and encouragement of celebrity chefs, mixologists, and plenty of brands familiar to business travelers.

On Oct. 5, it kicked off the event on the Big Island with further celebrations on Maui two weekends later. They included dining events, family programs, and social functions where guests co-mingled with big-name chefs. Next up, a series of glamorous and casual events canopied Oahu lasting through this week.

The event, in its ninth year, has gathered steam as a way to promote culinary tourism as well as investment in the Hawaiian agriculture industry and budding student chefs. The festival represents one of the state’s top culinary events and is counted among the top food and wine festivals according to the Travel Channel and Fodor’s Travel. In 2018, the festival raised nearly $400,000 to support local nonprofits across the state.

Big-name supporters

The festival, co-founded by celebrity chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, was originally designed to support local farmers and the islands’ agricultural industry, but has added a variety of other nonprofits to its beneficiary list including various culinary schools like the Maui Culinary Academy.

This helps them to develop unique programs that draw more students, but also allows those students the opportunity to engage with and work with celebrity chefs throughout the year.

Hawaiian Airlines, First Hawaiian Bank, the International Marketplace in Honolulu, and Hawaii Tourism are all among the familiar names that business and leisure travelers will recognize. As the event takes place throughout October, visitors to the state participate in a variety of activities to keep them satiated and sated. Many of these take place at various hotels around the island, and conference and incentive groups can take advantage of these events when planning their visits to the islands.

According to Denise Yamaguchi, Chief Executive Officer of the festival and wife of Chef Roy Yamaguchi, more chefs from the mainland and overseas have been drawn to the islands because of the festival. When they learn of the breadth of ingredients and talent found in Hawaii, they are more than encouraged to open restaurants in Hawaii. For tourists and for locals, the festival becomes a win-win supporting our farm-to-table economy as well as the tourists and business travelers that come from afar to enjoy it.

Celebrity Chef Alan Wong says the event continues to grow year after year thanks to the support of so many food, beverage, financial, travel, and other consumer brands. Everyone believes in supporting the farm-to-table economy while also showing visitors and locals how Hawaiian cuisine is more than what they might originally think. It becomes an important tourism driver for the state.

Many chefs at the event have partnered with Hawaiian Airlines to help create specific dishes served aboard its long-haul flights like Chang Wook Chung of Kunsam Noodle Factory in Seoul and Chef Eric Oto of the highly celebrated Hoku’s Restaurant at The Kahala Hotel & Resort.

Big-name hosts

Popular events, open to the public, have taken place at major hotels and resorts like the Iberian feast at the Marriott Resort Waikoloa Beach on the Big Island, the 22nd Annual Roy’s Ka’anapali Golf Classic tournament on Maui, and Hawaiian Airlines’ Swirl, a wine-focused event showcasing a variety of global wines (many of which are served on board its flights).

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa along Ka’anapali Beach, the oldest and most celebrated resort in this part of the island, played host to Maui’s kickoff event. It was themed around the Broadway musical, Wicked, and featured cocktails and dishes inspired by the Wizard of Oz. Pasta La Vista at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa was another major event with a six-course dinner coordinated live by six celebrity chefs preparing each other’s dishes in front of a live audience (with plenty of levity and excitement in the process). What’s more, culinary students from local community colleges were able to participate giving them an opportunity traditionally not afforded to students at their level.

Fiesta 24/7 took place at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa with Latin American-themed courses on the pool deck. Many chefs and wine masters will be familiar to business travelers like Michelle Bernstein known for her restaurants as well as popular wine program designed for Delta Air Lines. Michael Chiarello, another celebrity chef preparing premium cabin meals for Delta, was on hand to mingle with visitors during the Maui event.

The business and culinary worlds collide quite often, and theHawaii Food and Wine Festival is the perfect example that attracts visitors from around the world for a bite, a sip, or better yet, both. The tenth annual event will take place Oct. 2-25 across three islands next year.