The Iolani Fair Turns 25

Posted on June 24, 2016 by admin

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Who’s Kid is that Eating Crab Dip Behind the Malasada Tent? 

A few years ago somebody made the comment, “we need more chefs’ kids in the school”. It was while preparing for another two full days of gourmet food and cooking demonstrations that have become a unique fixture of the Iolani Fair. While the idea of going out to recruit more children of local chefs to help stack the roster at the gourmet food tent was meant as a joke, it did demonstrate how important the school’s commitment to local cuisine has become.

The Original Roy’s Gourmet Food Tent

Back when Roy Yamaguchi’s kids were going to Iolani, his wife got involved with the fair and encouraged Roy to round up some of his chef buddies to help as well. The new Gourmet Food Tent became a showcase for local, established chefs to highlight their dishes and it added a unique element to help the relatively new Iolani Fair, stand out. The fair has now successfully celebrated its 25th birthday and over the years there have been more local chefs involved in the gourmet tent, breaking up the workload. And yes, many of those chef’s kids have ended up going to Iolani, including my own.

Continuing the Commitment at Tiki’s

I first got involved with the fair and some of the other fundraisers at Iolani when my son Roman began attending school there in 2009. Since day one I was impressed with the organization and commitment of the school. The parents, the alumni, the school administrators, everyone is very active in fundraising and improving and growing the school.

Long time alums like Ernie Choy ‘70 and Andy Nakasone and his wife Ann ‘91, take off the entire week from their jobs to organize the event. Kevin Wada, Iolani’s food services director and Kevin Tomisato, their events coordinator put in double time in addition to their regular duties. We start with a couple of meetings a few months before the event to finalize the food and recipes but as with many things cuisine, a lot of it still comes together in the last few hectic hours before the gates open. It’s all quite the production.

I have been happy to continue working with the event even though my son Roman graduated last year and now attends Keio University in Japan. When it comes to my time at events like these however, the bottom line is that Tiki’s, through the support of our managing partner Bill Tobin (his kids now also attend Iolani) makes that possible. As long as he supports me spending a big chunk of time at the school during the week of the fair then I’ll continue doing what I can.

Shooting for the Stars

For this year’s fair I brought along my kitchen manager Mikey Inthapanhnha to help with the prep and the demos. We did Shrimp Pasta Puttanesca, Clam Chowder, Lilikoi Creme Brûlée and a Hot Porchetta Sandwich with Giardiniera and Provolone among other things. In addition to our Tiki’s cooking demonstrations there were demos by Executive Chef Lindsey Simone from Roy’s, Chef Lydell Leong from 3660 on the Rise and Chef Fred DeAngelo, new owner at Heeia Kea Pier General Store.

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While each year’s fair has a theme, as a committee we were going more for the culinary impact than trying to create dishes to match the “Race to Space” theme. We stuck with the belief that the quality and flavor of the food at the Iolani Fair is what separates it from other similar events. The weather was perfect, the crowds were festive and the gourmet food tent once again delivered a special treat to fairgoers looking for something more than popcorn and candy floss.

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