By Nancy Kanyuk
Chefs and soon to be chefs joined forces at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel for the 15th Annual Noble Chef event on Saturday. Hosted by the Maui Culinary Academy at the University of Hawaii Maui College the event paired some of the island best-known chefs with the Academy’s students in a swanky affair that showcased a unique mentoring program and helped raise funds for scholarships, development and expansion of the College’s program.
The program kicked off with a reception on the Royal Fountain Terrace at the Hotel with spectacular views of lush greenery and ocean. But it was the smells wafting from the eight stations manned by the chefs and Academy students that drew your attention. Pupu-size portions were there for the tasting and for the remedial wine drinker (like me) selections were provided for each sampling. Fully stocked martini bars featuring Ocean vodka were available if wine was not your drink of choice.
Guests strolled from station to station and sampled their choices at stand-up tables. And sample they did from: Picasso’s Café’s Chef Vincent DeRosa’s Picasso’s Ponzu Picatta (a yummy concoction served in a stemmed glass) paired with a 2009 Masi Masianco; Four Seasons Executive Sous Chef Samuel Faggetti’s Big Island Washimi beef, with local vegetables and pho oxtail broth with a 2009 Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Leilani’s on the Beach Sous Chef Ryan Ferguson’s Smoked “Sous Vide” Lamb Lollipop with bacon-brussel sprout hash served with a 2007 E Guigal Cote du Rhone; Maui Brewing Company’s Executive Chef Lyndon Honda’s Fried Miso Shrimp, with mini “shrimp dashi” musubi and roasted shrimp shell furikake paired with a 2009 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay; I’O, Pacifico’s James McDonald’s Beet Arancini Goat Cheese with roasted Kula beet relish and butternut squash sauce paired with a 2010 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc; Spago’s Executive Sous Chef Peleg Miron’s Soft Boiled Hudson Valley Duck Egg with Muscovy duck confit, local chives and Aina Lani Farms honey whipped cream served with a 2008 Chateau Recougne and Star Noodle’s Executive Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Scallop-Dashi Shot with seared scallops, ginger, scallion, peanut oil, and sake-viognier dashi, paired with a 2009 Bonterra Viogner and the Ritz Carlton’s Executive Sous Chef Ryan Urig’s Ahi Carpaccio with wasabi sea beans and Riesling caviar with a 2009 Dr. Hermann Riesling.
According to many I talked to this new casual format differed from years past when the whole event was a rather drawn out multi-course experience and was a welcome change. Amazingly, this was only a warm up to the sit-down meal featuring a first course of Lobster Terrine presented by Academy chefs Jake Belmonte and Craig Omori. The main course of Slow Braised Natural Prime Beef Short Rib with local root vegetables, soft polenta, horseradish cream and pine nut gremolata was created by Academy chefs Tom Lelli and Kyle Kawakami.
A new addition to the evening was “You Be the Judge”, an opportunity to vote for the “Best Use of Local Ingredients”, “Best Presentation” and “Best in Show”. At the conclusion of the meal attendees were given “clickers” that would allow them to point and click at the choices on a screen at the front of the ballroom. Winners of the evening were: Best of Show: Sheldon Simeon; Best Presentation: Peleg Miron; and Best use of Local Ingredients: Ryan Urig.
After being sufficiently wined and dined guests took part in a silent and live auction for art and spa packages and personalized dining experiences. They also generously supported what the Academy calls “Fund-a-Need” scholarships for needy students.
The final act of the evening, billed as a Dessert Extravaganza, didn’t disappoint. Dessert lovers (like me) were absolutely dazzled by a remarkable array of offerings from tiramisu, cheesecake, tartlets, cakes, truffles, cookies and more and even a large croquant bouche (tower made of profiteroles or cream puffs). Created by Celebrity Chef Stanton Ho with Chefs Teresa Shurilla and Chelsie Higgins and assisted by the Academy’s students it definitely lived up to its name.
The entire evening, from start to finish, proved that Maui’s rich culinary tradition is alive and well and generously supported by the community.
By Nancy Kanyuk