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Maui Onion Festival

Chefs focus on Upcountry crop.

May 3, 2012
The Maui Weekly

On Saturday, May 5, Whalers Village in Ka'anapali Resort will host the Maui Onion Festival in honor of the sweet Maui Onion.

Now in its 23rd year, Whalers Village's signature event since 1990 will be more dynamic than ever, summoning the creativity of top Hawai'i chefs and drawing a crowd for free culinary samples and a fun-packed day.

Here's a chance to learn about Maui's top Upcountry agricultural crop through the dazzling interpretations of Hawai'i chefs and the restaurants of Ka'anapali.

Prime retail offerings, music and entertainment provide a perfect balance for all that good food.

Official festival events will take place on center stage and the beachfront lawn from 9:45 a.m. until after dark.

After its debut success in 2011, the Ka'anapali Beach Resort Maui Onion Challenge returns to join area restaurants in a friendly competition to see who cooks up the best Maui Onion dish. Prior to the festival, the participating chefs offer their onion specials to their customers as an appetizer, entree or salad.

Then the chefs compete in a cook-off at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday on center stage. Winners will be announced at noon.

In the mesmerizing Maui Onion Recipe Contest, celebrity chefs from O'ahu and Maui will demonstrate their creative culinary skills and judges will rate each dish. With the winners of the past three years--Dave (D.K.) Kodama (2011), James McDonald (2010) and David Paul Johnson (2009)--returning to reclaim their titles, competition will be tough. This year's favorite dish will be announced at 4:30 p.m.

The chef demonstration schedule includes Russell Siu of 3660 On the Rise, Chef McDonald of Pacific'O and I'O restaurants, Kevin Hanney of the 12th Avenue Grill and SALT, Chef Kodama of Cane & Taro and Sansei, Johnson of David Paul's Island Grill and Jojo Vasquez of the Banyan Tree Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

This year's judges are Cassandra Anderton, a freelance travel and food writer from Vancouver; Ayngelina Brogan, a travel blogger from Toronto; Nadine Kam, food writer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; Helen Reed from Lahaina News; Chris Speere of the Maui Culinary Academy; Jenn Russo for Maui Time; Susan Halas for Maui Now; Bonnie Friedman, Maui freelance food and travel writer; and Carla Tracy with The Maui News.

Ramsey Wharton of Hawai'i News Now will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

This year's Cinco de Mayo Mixed Drink Contest at 2:30 p.m. on center stage will challenge Whalers Village bartenders.

The ever-popular Maui Onion Eating Contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m. for keiki, and for adults at 4 p.m. at center stage.

At the beach stage, a Polynesian hula dance show will kickoff the entertainment at 10 a.m., followed by a smoothie demonstration. Later, listen to the Air Force Band of the Pacific, Benoit JazzWorks, and the young duo Barefoot Minded.

Throughout Whalers Village, food booths and vendors will showcase value-added onion products and other Maui favorites.

On the eve of the Maui Onion Festival on Friday, May 4, Hula Grill Ka'anapali will host the annual Maui Onion Pairing Dinner with a splendid three-course meal. Of course, Maui Kula Onions are key. Dishes will be paired with handcrafted beer by Maui Brewing Co. Tickets are available at Hula Grill.

In honor of the Maui Onion Festival, the more than 90 shops and restaurants at Whalers Village will be well stocked with special retail offers through May 5. Shoppers receive a free Maui Onion Festival gift with purchase when spending $150 or more.

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