Judging the Maui Agricultural Festival

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Maui, Hawaii

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.

 

Hawaiian food

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.

 

taro

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.

 

Join the Conversation

  1. Matthew Karsten says:

    I went to University for a year in Honolulu, and one of my classes was Hawaiian studies. We got to grow & care for Taro plants. It was tons of fun! Walking around barefoot in deep mud, clearing the river that irrigated our patch from debris after storms, etc.

    That food looks incredible. I miss Hawaii! 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Taro is such a tough job, I cannot imagine what kind of chiropractic work the farmers need.

  2. I’ve never eaten poi or taro but would be very interested to know what they taste like. Starchy? Sour?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Poi is almost gloopy and bland, it’s hard to explain but not a favourite at all.

  3. Yep, both poi and taro would be new to me!

  4. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    What a fun opportunity! I love watching food competition shows, and I always wanted to be a judge on Iron Chef.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It can be intimidating but a lot of fun.

  5. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I love that they picked you to do this!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love it even more!

  6. What a great opportunity for you…this passion of yours is certainly taking you into interesting situations…who would have thought that you would end up doing things like this!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Certainly not me!

  7. Poi? It’s slimy, purple and best left to mortar a house together.

  8. Roy Marvelous says:

    Wow Aynge, you’re kinda of a big deal now 😀

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Anchorman!

  9. Courtney Mroch says:

    This is SO cool! I think it’s neat you got a trip to Hawaii to judge a food contest! And then to get to mingle with the sort of people you judged with? WOW! Best of all, you got to EAT! IN HAWAII! YOWSER!!!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The food in Hawaii is incredible.

  10. Ava Apollo says:

    I’m jealous of two things:

    1) I watch food network entirely too much and it’s definitely a life goal to to be able to taste amazing food, for free, and to give an opinion on it. Amazing!

    2) You are really good at photographing food (and other things, too).

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Aww thanks Ava, food was the first thing I started photographing and it’s probably what I am best at. Before I left to travel I subscribed to 5 food magazines, a bunch of podcasts and too many email newsletters. Food takes up a good portion of my life even now.

  11. Jen Laceda says:

    wow, awesome opportunity to judge! it’s my dream gig!

    i love, love, love taro! we Chinese (and Filipinos) cook with taro all the time – from the root to the leaves! in fact, my fave Filipino dish is “laing” or taro / dasheen leaves simmered in spicy coconut milk!!! omg, i’m hungry.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Jen you would be perfect for something like this, especially as you already know taro.

  12. Wow! the post made me hungry. Hope I am one of the judges. Thanks for sharing your mouthwatering post.

  13. The Hawaiian food made my mouth watery. Thanks for posting. Looking forward for more yummy blog.

  14. Annie - FootTracker says:

    That sounds like an awesome opportunity to try food not shown anywhere else yet!

    (Though for me I am not sure if I am adventurous enough to try all of them XD)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh believe me they were all delicious.

  15. Wow! I’ll add these to my list. Can’t wait to try these Hawaiian food.

  16. That is the coolest thing! I’d be a terrible judge, I love everything it would be impossible to choose a favourite! Congrats on being among such accomplished foodies, you’ve made it lady!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It can be really tough but you have to go with your gut – no pun intended!

  17. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista says:

    Wow, I don’t like poi either but you have convinced me that made other ways taro might be good. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  18. I want to try all the foods in here..Thanks for sharing with us..

  19. Paddy Waller says:

    Nice photos.Really like to try the poi and the taro.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I don’t like it but I think everyone should at least try it.

  20. Sometimes I’m so jealous of your adventures, but in a good way. What fun.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Aww thanks Katie.

  21. Gladys | WanderingTandem.com says:

    such great looking food… i bet they all tastes so great as well. your photos are mouth-watering.

  22. Wow, I would love to try all those food. I loved Hawaiian food when I was there, and have tasted plenty in California, but nothing like what you’re featuring here. Ah, the life of a foodie. I envy you a bit! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I hadn’t tasted any Hawaiian food before, I guess it just hasn’t made its way far east enough – yet!

  23. Mark Wiens says:

    Wow, that was a sweet opportunity! The food all looks delicious – especially those taro chips in the bottom dish!

  24. How cool that you got to be a judge! All of those dishes look delicious!

  25. TammyOnTheMove says:

    Wow, what a great opportunity. I’d be in heaven judging something like this. All this food looks absolutely delicious! I’d probably chosen a taro dish as well-ever since I learned how to make spring rolls with taro in Cambodia I have been hooked. Great blog!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Very cool, I didn’t know taro was also in Cambodia.

  26. Kieu ~ GQ trippin says:

    Once again, you managed to make me hungry after I’ve just ate! I love taro – especially in Chinese dim sum. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I haven’t had it in dim sum yet but I did have it in dinner rolls and it was delicious.

  27. I’ve never had poi or taro but this is a really cool way to try new foods. Sounds fun!

  28. I would love to do this. Everything looks delicious. Interesting to see how chefs can turn taro and breadfruit (which can be very bland) into a savory dish. Believe me, I had enough of the bland versions when growing up in Puerto Rico.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love breadfruit, the guy from the breadfruit institute gave us some just tossed in garlic and it was fantastic.

  29. Janice Simeon says:

    I’ve lived on Maui all my life. Toronto might be a nice change 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m not sure if you could weather the winter but I know Sheldon would be so popular there or anywhere for that matter.

      Maybe I just need to come to Maui more frequently?

  30. Carolyn Jung says:

    What a fun time that was judging with you! It made me so wish I could more easily find some of those Maui produce staples back here in California. Alas, I may have to just high-tail it back there instead to get my fix. 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Last night we had coconut pineapple ice cream and it was so bittersweet knowing how delicious it was but that we would not be able to get it in Canada.

  31. hunger pangs!! LOL

    btw, our website is now no longer cumidanciki but http://ccfoodtravel.com/ . Please kindly update your blogroll, thanks soooo much! xox,mei

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No problem!

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