Back to School – Lessons Learned at a Touch of Iolani Fundraiser
I had a chance to go back to the Touch of Iolani school fundraising event recently and show some school pride. I grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from a high school culinary program near Boston so I never attended classes there but my son Roman will be graduating from Iolani next spring. It’s been a great school for him and a really fantastic organization to be associated with. This was their 19th annual Touch of Iolani and maybe the 10th one for me.
For this year’s event we made Big Island wild boar sausage ragout with French lentils along with pickled onions, kale chips, beet puree and a savory pastry stick. We served it in a compostable bamboo leaf cone
Doing Some Homework
My son was there to help and we also got to cruise the other stations, see some of my chef friends and taste some great food. Roman said he loved our dish and 3660 on the Rise who were serving braised boneless beef ribs with truffle jus, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Lesson #1 – Environmental Studies 101
I learned that bamboo leaf cones are still a new thing. People kept wanting to eat them and we had to keep telling people no, don’t eat them. I think you’re going to see a lot more compostable containers at events like this in the future. There’s even a bill going through Honolulu city council that will require takeout food to be in containers that can be made into compost. Even if the bill doesn’t pass people are more aware that we can’t just keep throwing away foam containers and plastic plates. It’s just the right thing to do if you can economically. We’re giving it a shot!
Lesson #2 – Hawaii Loves Pork (and beef and lamb and…
I think the taste for the flavor of wild boar has been a local thing for a long time. After all it’s not a real luau unless dinner has tusks. We get our wild boar from Kulana Foods in Hilo. They are one of the best sources for USDA-inspected grass fed beef and since 2009, Big Island wild boar as well.
Lesson #3 – Problem Solving Skills are More Important than the Answer
The story of Big Island wild boar is one of those where necessity or in this case desperation leads to innovation. The story, according to Tom Asano, the sales manager at Kulana Foods, goes something like this: In 2008 the price of macadamia nuts had crashed to the point that farmers were just leaving the nuts to drop and rot in the orchards. Wild boar soon found their way into the orchards to scarf down the nuts and then one day an enterprising and cash strapped farmer trapped one of the animals and brought it in a cage to Kulana Foods. They were already supplying restaurants with Big Island grass-fed beef, pork and lamb and then word got out that they had mac nut-fed wild boar as well.
Lesson #4 – Fresher is Always Better
We order the whole pig minus the bones and make the casing-less sausage in-house. It’s so fresh the trapper doesn’t go out until our order goes in. I think the flavor goes really well with the ragout and red wine plus the French lentils have a nice firm texture and slightly earthy taste. The pickled onions we make with Bermuda onions and with the beet puree and baked kale chips you get a nice mix of color, texture and a little twang.
It was a great evening and I’d like to thank my crew for another fine job and congratulate Iolani School on another outstanding event.
*PHOTOS BY KAT WADE / Special to the Star-Advertiser