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What You Missed at This Year's Hawaii Food & Wine Fest

Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Wonho Frank Lee

It's been a few years since Eater checked out Hawaii Food & Wine Festival — the last time was at the inaugural event back in 2011. Things have definitely shaped up for the annual festival, which now spans two weekends and counts scores of influential chefs from both the Hawaiian Islands and mainland in its ranks. This year, there was plenty of classic tropical celebration, with a heavy dose of locally produced ingredients and flavors. With hometown chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong overseeing most of the second weekend's festivities, here's a round up of all the action from Honolulu.

Things kicked off on Thursday night with A Lucky Modern Buddha Belly at The Modern resort, situated right at the marina nearby Waikiki. With the sun waning, the likes of Nancy Silverton (Mozza), Nancy Oakes (SF's Boulevard), Masaharu Morimoto, Andy Ricker (Pok Pok), Chris Kajioka (formerly of Vintage Cave), Seattle's Tom Douglas, Charles Phan (The Slanted Door), Scott Toner (The Modern), Michael Ginor (Hudson Valley Foie Gras), and Michelle Karr-Ueoka of Honolulu's MW Restaurant were all cooking, smiling, and greeting revelers with aplomb. A slew of international chefs were serving their best, from Philip Johnson of e'cco in Brisbane, Michael Meredith of Meredith's in Auckland, Peng Yu from Qing Yun Lou in Beijing, and Byung Jin Kim of Bicena in Seoul, Korea. 1) A lot of oohs and aahs when event goers caught sight of original Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai rolling around with a small entourage and bright orange athletic shoes. He stumbled onto fellow Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's station and tapped his shoulders. The two hugged and shared words like the old friends that they are. Most people were all too eager to catch the two taking a selfie. #ironchefselfie anyone?

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[Photo: morimotowaikiki/Instagram]

2) Big time restaurant gossip from Andy Ricker of Pok Pok. When asked which locale he'd prefer to open in next, after his Portland and New York outposts, he stated that Los Angeles was high on his list. Hawaii would actually be another ideal location for Pok Pok, what with Honolulu's Chinatown able to provide the noodles he needs, plus the bounty of other local ingredients. But Ricker seemed to hint that LA's Chinatown would likely come first. Roy Choi's Chego + Pok Pok in one neighborhood? A food hipster's head might explode at the mere thought.

3) Nancy Silverton literally never goes anywhere without her signature sunglasses. Even at 9 p.m. in Waikiki.

4) Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger) checked out the long line at Charles Phan's station and joked, "Looks like you're really in the weeds."

5) Chris Kajioka dishes a bit on his upcoming partnership with Aziza's Mourad Lahlou. Kajioka, who only recently left the celebrated tasting menu-focused Vintage Cave (Honolulu) a month ago, plans to work as a chef-partner for Lahlou's Downtown San Francisco restaurant for a while before returning to Honolulu to open a shorter format tasting menu restaurant much in the vein of LA's Trois Mec. Think a 10 person chef's counter and another 50 or so seats.

6) The next morning, participants gathered at Papahana Kuaola, a practically suburban farm that adheres strictly to traditional Hawaiian methods. Taking a gentle hillside and irrigating the lo'i terraces with a natural mountain spring, the lush field grew some tasty taro and more.

7) Chefs Christina Tosi (Milkbar, NYC) and Mark Noguchi of Honolulu's Lunchbox delved deep into one of the muddy holes, clearing out hefty weeds for over an hour. Tosi was practically jumping in, at first almost with her bright red Keds, but later opting to go barefoot on the waist-high mud. Tosi furiously tore out the weeds, some reaching several feet high. She gave no regard for her clothes, as friends were quick to toss some of that skin-reviving mud on her back. Weeds = 0; Tosi = 1.

8) Later in the day, chefs convened at a wholesale fish market near the Honolulu pier to sample some of the island's best locally produced foodstuffs. Of course, they didn't waste the opportunity for anything other than a top-flight ALS challenge. Chefs Art Smith (LYFE Kitchen, Table 52), Jose Garces, Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, Celestino Drago (LA's Drago Centro), and Vikram Garg (Halekulani Honolulu) stood in line and endured very large buckets of ice. Later on, it just turned into a grown men's water fight. Was this about ALS awareness/donation, or just an excuse to throw ice water on each other on a hot day?

[Video: Matthew Kang]

9) In the evening, a marquee lineup of chefs cooked for the Master Chefs Gala Series. All were involved in some way or another with culinary competition: Hiroyuki Sakai (La Rochelle, Tokyo), Jose Garces (Tinto, Philadelphia), Vikram Garg, Johnny Iuzzini, Richard Rosendale, and Michelle Bernstein (Michy's, Miami). The dining room, full of water tower center pieces topped with white peacocks and black sequin tablecloths (really?) was hosted by none other than Adam Richman. The Food Fighters host was quick to crack off some low-brow jokes.

10) Adam Richman showed off an iPhone photo of his Halloween costume from five years prior...of himself as Iron Chef Sakai.

11) Check out Iron Chef Sakai plating a few hundred dishes. Will he plate them all before time gets called?

12) On Saturday evening, hundreds gathered at the Hawaii Convention Center for a blowout tasting event called Corks & Forks. ZZ's Clam Bar (NYC) barman Brian Miller was appropriately garnishing his rum punch with a banana dolphin eating a maraschino cherry. 12) When asked how he liked Hawaii, Jonathan Waxman jokingly replied: "Terrible."

13) Hubert Keller prepared a fantastic green coconut curry with a chunk of lamb merguez that plenty of other attendees seemed to enjoy. Christina Tosi rocked local guava in a delectable cake slice.

14) The one and only Ron Popeil of Ronco (you know, set it and forget it!) was demoing his new turkey rotisserie device at Celestino Drago's booth.

15) At the Battle of the Brunch showdown the following morning, Lee Ann Wong, Sven Ulrich (Hyatt Regenc Honolulu), Michelle Bernstein, Jose Garces, Johnny Iuzzini, and Jackie Lau (Roy's Honolulu) duked it out to win brunch time supremacy. Wong and Ulrich's team seemed to hoot and holler whenever anyone added their vote for their bites, which included Wong's cornflaked encrusted French toast topped with bacon gelato. Johnny Iuzzini snuck over to steal Wong and Ulrich's ballot box (and the voting tickets). Furious, Wong went back to Iuzzini's booth to retrieve the box. All in good fun, of course. Did the brunchgoers really enjoy Iuzzini's candied tuna shaved ice, chock full of liquid-nitro honey, more than that French toast?

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Ballot thief Johnny Iuzzini

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17) En route to the final event at the Disney Aulani's private beach, Johnny Iuzzini and Hubert Keller thought it best to pregame the bus full of attendees with cans of Longboard beer. 16) Josiah Citrin of Santa Monica's Melisse dished that he still hasn't broken ground at his upcoming sequel in Venice, which still has no name. The casual restaurant, which hopes to reside at the old Macchi's Bistro, has hit some snags that are outside of Citrin's control.

17) A breakup rumor swirling around regarding Sang Yoon's partnership with Sherry Yard at the upcoming Helms Bakery in Culver City went unconfirmed. The duo is still working together on the massive bakery and cafe project, but apparently ground still hasn't broken after more than a year. What's going on? Either way, Yoon's mini lobster roll with pig ears was the hit of the evening.

· All Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Hangover Observations Coverage on Eater [-E-]