The Maui County Farm Bureau (MCFB) and some of the island's top chefs have partnered with Whole Foods Market Kahului for a six-part "Grown on Maui" Chef Demo Series. The alliance between farmers and chefs is part of the Farm Bureau's "Grown on Maui" campaign to help increase market share and support for local agriculture.
"Our vision is agricultural growth through responsible business practices and collaboration," said MCFB Public Relations Coordinator Charlene Kauhane. "The partnership with Whole Foods celebrates great cooking featuring Maui chefs who are recognized for their support of locally grown produce."
Chefs who create "menus that matter" have been giving demonstrations on the last Monday of each month at Whole Foods Market Kahului. The delectable event was designed to spotlight home-grown seasonal fruits, vegetables and protein.
Makena Beach & Golf Resort’s Chef Marc McDowell prepares for his cooking demonstration at Whole Foods Market Kahului on May 21.
Photo: Douglas Hoffman
"Enjoy a front-row seat as these chefs prep and cook delicious dishes during the one-hour cooking and tasting event starting at 5:30 p.m.," said Elyse Ditzel, marketing director at Whole Foods Market Kahului. "All of the chefs' demos are free to the public and demonstrate scrumptious, healthy food choices."
The next featured chef on Monday, May 21, is Chef Marc McDowell of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort. "Since his appointment as Makena's executive chef in October 2010, Chef McDowell has revolutionized the resort's culinary program," said Ditzel.
Trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Chef McDowell has a background in French cooking, specializing in a fusion of exotic herbs and spices with fresh Hawaiian ingredients to create new flavor profiles for the palette.
"My mantra is 'Fresh! Fresh! Fresh!'" exclaimed Chef McDowell. "I want the Makena food experience to start from scratch and be delicious."
Not only does he urge his guests to experience high-quality, locally grown food, Chef McDowell is also developing his culinary staff's sensibilities toward fresh ingredients, fresh flavors and a fresh outlook on cooking.
Chef McDowell is a certified master gardener who has developed a resort herb garden featuring a wide selection of over 51 exotic herbs and spices, 41 types of vegetables, and over 12 varieties of fruits.
"I have a vision to utilize as much of the resort's 1,800 acres as possible to grow rows and rows of citrus and tropical fruits," Chef McDowell said.
At Makena Resort, the culinary team commits daily to using as many herbs and vegetables as they can from their onsite garden. "We make all our own breads, pastry items, stocks, sauces, soups, dressings and more," said Chef McDowell.
The herb garden at Makena Beach & Golf Resort was designed for two reasons. It provides the resort with sustainably grown food, and also offers a learning opportunity for guests who enjoy gardening at home.
Realizing the added benefit of using only natural pesticides, including neem seed oil and biological predator insects, Chef McDowell is convinced we will live healthier lives if we buy local organic produce.
"That's where the local farmers come in," Chef McDowell said. "Buying 'Grown on Maui' is great on so many levels. It helps our economy and builds better relationships between the farmers and restaurants. Locally we can get a better, more nutritious product than we usually can from the Mainland."
Some of his future plans for Makena Beach & Golf Resort include the addition of an aquaponics garden, a combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). This new method of farming is recognized worldwide as a viable, sustainable method of food production.
Impressed with the agriculture program at Maui High School, Chef McDowell has enjoyed helping students set up gardens. He hopes one day to have a farmer's market right in the resort's parking lot, where students can sell their locally grown produce.
One of Maui High School's goals is to be able to grow fruits and vegetables that can be used by local businesses and that help support their agriculture program.
"I believe we are educating future farmers and scientists who will continue Maui's rich agricultural tradition and pave the way for future sustainability," said Ian Lowland of the Maui High School Agriculture Department.
"We are providing the next generation of students with a basic understanding of agricultural principles to grow their own food or to start a local farm which will support them and the community at large," he said.
Big dreams and ambitious goals keep Chef McDowell constantly engaged with his staff, local farmers, students, suppliers, restaurant guests and other members of the community.
"Through my love for sustainable-farm to table eating, I hope to inspire those around me," Chef McDowell said.
If you love gardening, cooking and healthy eating, come to experience Chef McDowell's contagious can-do attitude at Whole Foods Kahului on Monday May 21, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., or experience fine dining anytime at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.