‘Get Fresh’ welcomes local chef, farmers
BY NADINE KAM / firstname.lastname@example.org
Vintage Cave Honolulu executive chef Chris Kajioka and Big Island farmers Pam and Kurt Hirabara of Hirabara Farms were at Cookspace Hawaii on Sunday, July 7, as part of the new demonstration space’s summer cooking series, “Get Fresh LIVE.” The series demonstrates the alchemy that takes place when chefs and farmers get together to collaborate and inspire one another.
The exciting new space is the brainchild of longtime foodie and entrepreneur Melanie Kosaka, who is able to tap into a who’s who of culinary expert who offer their time and talent to opening up meaningful discussions of food and food production, beyond the glut of superficial “look where I’m eating” social media postings. Her business partner in the venture is Jason Kim of Good to Grill.
During Sunday’s event, which mixed cooking demonstrations, talk, tasting and dining, Kurt Hirabara related that his attitude toward farming changed when he heard chef Alain Ducasse’s belief that, “The chef is not the star, the produce is.”
From that moment, Hirabara said he realized he had to step up his game. For Kajioka, he said he feels it’s his job not to screw it up.
Pam Hirabara said they could have planted their fields with tomatoes, but in choosing to work with a select group of chefs, they have been willing to accommodate their requests and experiment with different crops. The end results sometimes work and sometimes don’t, whether due to climate, soil conditions or the kinds of pests they attract or repel.
The farmers admit to being a little stumped when Kajioka requested a conehead cabbage. Hirabara said his response was, “You gotta be kidding me. Why grow the lowliest of vegetables, that we toss with kalua pig” because it’s so down to earth?
Kajioka’s rationale: “If cabbage isn’t good when it goes in the pan, I can’t do anything about it.”
What Hirabara found in growing the Caraflex cabbage is that it contains less sulfur than other cruciferous vegetables and its leaves are more tender and sweeter than other cabbages.
Now, he grows the cabbage exclusively for Kajioka — meaning we can’t buy it at the market — and competing chefs can’t get it either. But that doesn’t mean Hirabara is above withholding some for his own cooking experiments.
When Chris found out, Hirabara said he exclaimed, “You mean you’re using MY cabbage?”
Of course, true to Kajioka’s description, the cabbage is pointy. Pam Hirabara said when their workers first saw them, they were horrified.
“They thought they had done something wrong,” she said.
As for growing great vegetables in your little patch of urban Honolulu, good luck. The farmers said they’ve found the same rule for growing great wine grapes applies — location matters. Greens grown in sunny Liliha tend to be bitter; according to the Hirabaras, the greater the differential between day and night temperatures, the sweeter greens turn out to be (it also aids in developing a beautiful glossy sheen).
“The sad thing is, a lot of greens grow anywhere so people are fooled into thinking if it’s growing, it must be OK,” Pam Hirabara said.
The next “Get Fresh” event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. July 27 with chef Colin Hazama, senior executive sous chef of the Sheraton Waikiki, and Lesley Hill of Waialea Agricultural Group. They will be showcasing Big Island kampachi, hearts of palm and spices. It will cost $85 to attend.
» Thursday, July 11: “Raw and Wild Hawaii Seafood.” In this hands-on class you’ll learn proper technique for preparing a wild and raw experience of poke, sashimi and ceviche, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost: $65.
» Thursday, July 11: “Gluten Free Bread and Pasta.” Gluten free doesn’t mean giving up baguette, sliced breads and pasta. This class will compare gluten-free yeast bread mixes to one made from scratch to evaluate cost, time and taste; 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: $50.
» July 18: “Fresh Summer Kimchee and Bibimbap.” Cooking class with Ji-hye Yang, founder of the popular Korean food blog “KRecipe.” Learn to make bok choy kimchee bibimbab and a crisp apple kim chee; 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: $50.
» July 19: “Tequila & Mexican Appetizers.” Learn to make antojitos, savory bites of festive food. The founder of Grand Leyanda, a premium organic tequila, will also show you how to serve and taste Mexico’s best known spirit; 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: $50.
» July 24: “Chef’s Table with Roger Dikon.” Celebrate the rich bounty of Hawaii with one of Hawaii’s original Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs, who will prepare a farm-fresh lunch. Part of the Master Chefs series, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost: $65.
» Aug. 10: “Get Fresh LIVE” with Lance Kosaka and Chris Sy of BREADSHOP. Get a sneak peak of what chef Lance Kosaka (yes, Melanie’s bro) is cooking up for Skybar Waikiki — coming next spring — and why he’s crazy for Sy’s bread; 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: $85.
» Aug. 23: “Get Fresh LIVE” finale with Wade Ueoka and Ho Farms. Another sneak peak of chef Ueoka’s new restaurant, coming this fall, with ingredients from Shin Ho of Ho Farms; 6 to 8 p.m. Cost: $85.
Cookspace Hawaii is located at Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., above Town and Country Surf. Call (808) 695-2205 or visit www.cookspacehawaii.com for more classes and information.