When the Maui Visitors Bureau asked me to come to and judge this year’s Maui Agricultural Festival food challenge I was happy to accept. I love food. I cook, not to the proficiency of the chefs I would be judging, but well enough that my friends have to put up with my strong opinions on food and restaurants.
But I had no idea I would be alongside accomplished writers, including Carolyn Jung – a James Beard award-winning writer who just judged the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest with a $1 million prize.
I am out of my league.
But I reminded myself that while Pillsbury will never knock on my door, I know good food. There was a lot of good food. So after 12 dishes featuring traditional ingredients from local farmers all of the judges were too full to move but ready to talk.
Fortunately, yesterday we were given a briefing on local foods like taro and breadfruit, which many of us had never eaten before. It was great to talk to the farmers about the challenges of growing and cooking the ingredients.
You would be surprised to hear that I didn’t think a pork product was best. Instead I agreed with the others that Chef Sheldon Simeon was spectacular once again by showing us that taro could not only be traditional like in poi but also sophisticated and modern with his taro dumpling.
I don’t like poi so I had pretty much written off taro but Chef Sheldon was able to change my mind. I think this pretty much confirms I’ll eat anything this man cooks.
Now I just need to figure out how to convince him to transplant his wife and children to Toronto.
Much thanks to Peter Liu for the lead photo.