Maui Food and Dining

HFWF Chefs: An Inside Scoop

December 3, 2016, 9:22 AM HST
* Updated December 2, 9:28 PM
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More than 100 chefs shared their talents with our islands this year during the 6th annual Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival. Maui was the first stop, with workshops and dining events around Kā‘anapali from Oct. 14 to 16 that included a golf tournament, a mixology event and high-end dinners.

I had the chance to sit down with several of these notable professionals while they were here, and took the opportunity to ask them some extra in-depth questions. You’ll see some of those answers in our video above, and I included a few more of their thoughts here.

Chef Raphael Lunetta says mutual respect has become more and more of a priority in the industry over the years. He speaks to the importance of collaborating with kitchen staff, instead of ordering employees around. He adds a busy kitchen may be intense, but it can also be enjoyable.

“We can teach them, they can teach us, we can learn together, and we can have a symbiotic, hamonious relationship,” he says. “That creates an environment that allows the food to go out with the love that it needs.”


Chef Elizabeth Falkner, who’s familiar with being in the public eye, says chefs should remember to keep perspective, especially when t.v. cameras are on.


“I think people can get really worked up about performing on television, especially when you’re doing your craft and you don’t want to look like an idiot,” she explains, “but the truth is if you don’t stop and realize it’s just a fleeting moment, if you don’t have fun, then that’s what’s gonna show!”

For Chef Jose Garces, charisma plus cooperation equals a recipe for success.

“You really have to have a good sense of passion for ingredients, how you prepare them,” he says, “and then there’s the human side of it: how you interact with your other chefs, cooks, how you’re able to mentor and make the experience come together.”


Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka always makes sure to recognize the farmers, fishermen and other suppliers who put time into the quality, local ingredients she uses.

“People are like, ‘Oh you work so hard!’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s the people who grew it who worked hard!’ Because if they can have great product, my job is easy,” she says. “I’m just showcasing all the love and hard work they put into it.”

Don’t forget that what you make matters, oftentimes more than you realize, says Chef Heather Love.

“I’ve had people come back and give me hugs in the kitchen and say, ‘That’s how Grandma used to make it,’” she explains. “I didn’t think it was a big deal to put it on the menu, but that person cared about it so much they felt necessary to come tell me and give me a hug about it. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. You don’t get that in your everyday life!”

Mixologist Aaron Alcala-Mosley says it’s crucial to stay educated about cocktails, drink ingredients and their histories, and to gain inspiration from everything around you.

“Food you eat, things you see, whatever it takes,” he says. “Just be inspired all the time — and keep drinking!”

The Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival also toured around O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island this year. It supports 14 nonprofits across the state, including Imua Family Services, Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation, Maui County Farm Bureau and Maui Culinary Academy.

Dates are already set for 2017, when the festival and its outstanding talent will return to Maui from October 20 to 22.

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