Hawaii Top Chefs Prepare for 2012 Maui Onion Festival

KAANAPALI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - - On Saturday May 5, Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants at Ka'anapali Beach Resort hosts the 23rd Annual Maui Onion Festival, in honor of Maui's own sweet Maui Onion, and with the most tantalizing of dishes to date. Hawaii News Now's Ramsay Wharton will emcee this year's day long event that promises to "ap-peal" to everyone!  Ramsay headed to Maui to give us a preview of what to expect...

The Whalers Village signature event since 1990, the Maui Onion Festival will be more dynamic than ever, summoning the creativity of Maui's greatest chefs, and drawing a crowd for free culinary samples and a fun-packed day. Here's a chance to learn about Maui's top upcountry agricultural crop through the dazzling interpretations of our islands' chefs and the great restaurants of K'anapali. Prime retail offers, music, and entertainment provide a perfect balance for all that good food.

Scheduled festival events occur on the Center Stage and the Beach Front Lawn. Activities begin at 9:45 a.m. and won't end until after dark.  Highlights include:

• After its debut success in 2011, the Ka'anapali Beach Resort Maui Onion Challenge returns to join K'anapali-based restaurants in a friendly competition to see who cooks up the best Maui Onion dish. Prior to the festival, from April 27 to May 6, the participating chefs offer their onion specials to their customers, be it an appetizer, entrée or salad. However, only half of the chefs will show their talent at a hot cook-off at Maui Onion Festival itself. Why is that? The chefs gathered at Tropica Restaurant at The Westin Maui, on April 12. On that day they presented their dishes to a panel of judges, who choose the top dishes. (Cook-off at 10:30 a.m.. Winner announcement is scheduled at noon. Both on Center Stage.)

Congratulations to the chef finalists in the 2012 Maui Onion Challenge at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa:

Pulehu, an Italian Grill at The Westin K'anapali Ocean Resort Villas / Chef Wesley Holder: Maui Onion Tortelloni En Brodo. 144 points
Tropica Restaurant & Bar at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa / Chef Jennifer Evetushick: Seared Hamachi with Maui Onion Pad Thai. 137 points
Royal Ocean Terrace at Royal Lhain Resort / Chef Bernardo Salazar : Maui Caramalized Onion Sweet Potato Cake. 133 points
Hula Grill K'anapali / Chef Chris Schobel: Thai scented salad gazpacho, Maui onion soup and picked Maui onion. 129 points
Tiki Terrace at K'anapali Beach Hotel / Chef Christopher Napoleon: Pan seared Opakapaka with onion dust and house spices, on caramelized onion gnocchi with asparagus tips, oyster mushrooms, Kula sweet corn and Maine lobster meat. Finished with butternut onion butter sauce and a touch of mixed onion marmalade. 126 points (TIE)
Cane & Taro / Chef Ivan Pahk: Pan Roasted Opakapaka fresh Mafalde pasta with Maui onion jus with local farm fresh veggies. 126 points (TIE)

• The well-established, educationally mesmerizing Maui Onion Recipe Contest asks celebrity chefs from around Maui and O'ahu to demonstrate their creative culinary skills step by step. Judges subsequently rate each dish. But with the winners of the past three years returning to reclaim their spot, the bar has been raised. Welcome back to Dave (DK) Kodama, who in 2011 came up with a Maui Onion, Kekaha shrimp and lobster cake, James McDonald, celebrated for his upcountry ravioli in 2010, and David Paul Johnson, our winner for 2009. (Winner announcement at 4:30 p.m. Center Stage.)

Hawaii's top chefs to gather for the 23rd Maui Onion Festival Chef demonstration schedule:

10 a.m. Russell Siu, 3660 on the Rise

Demo: Braised Kurobuta pork belly, caramelized Maui Onions, natural jus

Recipe Contest: Maui onion horseradish crusted Kurobuta pork belly, carmelized

10:45 a.m. James McDonald, Pacific'O and iʻO Restaurants

Demo: Smoked pork and Maui onion jam panini

Recipe Contest: Maui onion tart tatin with Irish whiskey onion anglaise

11:30 a.m. Kevin Hanney, 12th Ave Grill, Salt

Demo: Pan roasted Maui Cattle Co. mock tenderloin with caramelized onion soubise and smoked onion jam

Recipe Contest: Savory Maui onion French toast with a warm Waimanalo Crimini mushroom and frisee salad, local fried egg and a Maui onion - housemade pancetta syrup

12:15 p.m. Dave (DK) Kodama, Cane & Taro, Sansei

Demo Dish: Pan roasted Opakapaka

House made fresh linguine, Hamakua mushrooms, Kahuku corn, red radish, pickled red chili, with a Maui onion demi

Recipe Contest: Forthcoming

1 p.m. David Paul Johnson, David Paul's Island Grill

Demo: Sweet Maui onion fritters with caramelized Maui onion aioli

Recipe Contest: Grilled island beef and Maui onion sliders

1:45 p.m. Jojo Vasquez, Banyan Tree Restaurant

Demo: Oyakodon, Maui onion, pea shoots

Recipe Contest: Forthcoming

• We are grateful for the judges who have agreed to take on the chefs' contests. They include Cassandra Anderton, a freelance travel and food writer from Vancouver, travel blogger Ayngelina Brogan from Toronto, Nadine Kam, food writer for Star Advertiser in Honolulu, Helen Reed for Lahaina News, Chris Speere representing Maui Culinary Academy, Jenn Russo for Maui Time, Susan Halas for Maui Now, Bonnie Friedman, freelance food and travel writer from Maui, and Carla Tracy for Maui News.

• Ah, May 5, the timing! This year's Cinco de Mayo Mix Drink Contest challenges Whalers Village's own Bartenders, and, trust us, that's a bunch with pride. (Center Stage. 2:30 p.m.)

• The ever-popular Maui Onion Eating Contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m. for keiki appetites. Adults try to measure up at 4:00 p.m. (Center Stage.)

For great entertainment, head to the Beach Stage. An early-morning Polynesian Hula Dance show welcomes the day at 10:00 a.m., followed by a delicious smoothie demo. Later, listen to our great Air Force Band of the Pacific, Benoit JazzWorks, and the young duo of Barefoot Minded.

Throughout Whaler's Village, food booths and vendors showcase value-added onion products and other Maui foods. They are there to honor the Maui Onion as the day's celebrated crop, a symbol for premium-quality diversified agriculture on Maui for Maui. And on the eve of Maui Onion Festival, Friday May 4, Hula Grill K'anapali hosts the annual Maui Onion Pairing Dinner with a splendid three-course meal. Of course, Maui Kula Onions are key. Dishes are paired with handcrafted beer of Maui Brewing Co. Tickets available at Hula Grill.

Counting more than 90 shops and restaurants, Whalers Village is Maui's premier beachfront shopping destination. From April 30 through May 5, in honor of Maui Onion Festival, they'll be well-stocked with special retail offers. Shoppers receive a free Maui Onion Festival gift with purchase when spending $150 or more. And did we tell you that there are no admission fees for the Maui Onion Festival?

About the Maui Kula Onion: A golden-pale globe with mild, crunchy flesh, the Maui Kula Onion embodies premium quality, belongs to the sweetest onions in the world, and is grown on about 150 acres in cool, fertile Kula. Its name is trademarked to safeguard authenticity.

About Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants: Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants is owned and managed by General Growth Properties, the second largest shopping center owner. GGP has ownership and management of a 136 regional and super regional shopping mall portfolio in 41 states. The company portfolio totals approximately 140 million square feet of space. A publicly-traded real estate investment trust (REIT), GGP is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GGP. Learn more about the place to shop, dine, and play at www.whalersvillage.com.

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