Video: Watch the fun from last year's event:
A proper visit to Hawaii requires immersion into its plentiful, storied food culture. It’s the essence of the islands. The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, October 5 to October 27, offers such an authentic epicurean experience.
The festival was co-founded by Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, two of Hawaii’s most renowned chefs and longtime Hawaii restaurateurs (Roy’s and Alan Wong’s respectively). It all began with a small dinner. For more than a decade, Yamaguchi hosted a dinner party at his original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai, on Oahu’s east side. “I would invite my chef friends to participate and cook and raise money and awareness for the farm bureau,” he says. One night after the annual dinner, he brainstormed out-loud about “trying to do it full scale,” he says. “The rest is history.”
Founded in 2010, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (HFWF) celebrates its ninth anniversary this year. It has since expanded to three islands—Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island—and become a culinary and cultural tour de force that makes the Islands a true food destination.
“(With HFWF) we’re saying to the world, ‘come see what we’re doing here in Hawaii,’ says Yamaguchi. “We want to showcase how we live, how we respect our culture and respect our farmers, fishermen and ranchers.”
In many ways the festival has come full circle for Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Yamaguchi, Wong and 10 fellow Hawaii chefs developed the concept in 1991 in a spare Maui Prince Hotel banquet room. The chefs met to talk about how to partner with farmers and avoid shipping in certain foods. Their talks turned into a culinary movement, in which local chefs continued to draw on the Islands’ diverse ethnic cooking styles and capitalized on locally sourced ingredients. “The Hawaii regional chefs worked together with farmers and now the festival has become the event where we put the chefs together with farmers, ranchers, fishermen. It raises the bar of what Hawaii has to offer,” says Yamaguchi.
Hawaiian Airlines Presents Swirl
This is the HFWF event for wine lovers. Set on the rooftop of the Hawaii Convention Center, Swirl features 20 renowned red wines from the Pacific Coast. “It has a huge touch and feel,” says chef and festival co-founder Roy Yamaguchi. “And of course, great chefs and great wines.” Each wine is expertly paired with toothsome tastings featuring fresh, local ingredients. White wines, handcrafted cocktails and specially selected beers are also available. Don’t miss out on the art exhibit and the silent auction. Click here for tickets.
And that’s what sets the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival apart from the dozens of other food and wine festivals across the country. The HFWF not only spotlights local, national, and international chefs and their creations of culinary excellence, but Island culture itself. Whether it’s the unique cuisine of Hawaii Island, a contemporary Hawaiian luau, or imbibing with master sommeliers, the festival seamlessly interweaves the unique foods, places and culture of the Hawaiian Islands into one food event. “Most food festival (attendees) come and go and the chefs cook and then they’re out the door,” says Yamaguchi. “For us, we make it a point to get the chefs to learn about Hawaii.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival was named one of the Travel Channel’s best food and wine festivals, and one of the top 15 in North America by Fodor’s Travel.
... the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival was named one of the Travel Channel’s best food and wine festivals ...
This year, approximately 120 chefs and culinary specialists are participating in the festival, half of whom are from the U.S., Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K. Yamaguchi says guest chefs visit Hawaii’s farms and ranches, the Honolulu fish auction, the Chinatown market in Honolulu, and even learn to pull kalo (taro) from loi (traditional Hawaiian irrigated terraces). “That’s why it’s important that the chefs that we bring out to Hawaii are committed to wanting to learn more about Hawaii’s culture,” says Yamaguchi. “They bring that spirit back to wherever they come from, whether it’s a foreign country or a Mainland destination city. They are our culinary ambassadors of the state and the festival.”
HFWF Schedule of Events
From a pasta extravaganza to a nighttime beach party, this year's schedule offers a tasty variety for all participants. Click here for a complete listing and see what's on the table for 2019.
Giving back is big for the food and wine festival. In fact, HFWF has seven community beneficiaries, including the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, the Maui Culinary Academy, Paepae o Heeia, and Papahana Kuaola. Yamaguchi sees community involvement as a natural extension of the festival, and of many chefs’ congeniality.
For eclectic tastings of Hawaii, at some of its most stunning venues, there’s no better event than the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. It’s a festival that truly connects the food of the Islands, with the culture of Hawaii.