Community gathers for 25th Maui Onion Festival

KAANAPALI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - - On Saturday May 3, Whalers Village Shops & Restaurants at Kā'anapali Beach Resort hosts the Maui Onion Festival.

The event showcases the Valley Isle's own signature crop – the world famous Maui Kula Onion. Now in its 25th year, the festival is more dynamic than ever. It continues to stimulate the creativity of Maui's leading chefs and draw crowds for free culinary samples.

The festival offers residents and visitors the opportunity to learn about Maui's most famous vegetable with an all day schedule that turns the spotlight on onions. Festivities also include music and entertainment. Join us at the Center Stage and the Beach Front Lawn. The day begins at 10 a.m. and won't end until after dark. General public enjoys free parking at Whalers Village.

Maui Onion Festival welcomes back the Maui Onion Challenge, a final competition for Kāʻanapali Resort chefs. This Challenge is a contest to showcase chefs from Kā'anapali restaurants engaging in a friendly competition to see who can create the best Maui Onion dish. A semi-final competition held at Roy's Restaurant Kaʻanapali narrowed the field to half; four chefs will participate in a cook-off at Maui Onion Festival itself. The finalists include Joey Macadangdang of Roy's Restaurant, Ryan Luckey of Leilaniʻs on the Beach, Jared Krausen of ʻUmalu at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Alvin Savella of Ocean Pool Bar and Grill at The Westin Kāʻanapali Ocean Resort Villas. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. a panel of judges will score the four entries. The first place winner will be announced at Noon on Center Stage.

The well established, educationally mesmerizing Maui Onion Recipe Contest asks celebrity chefs from Maui, O'ahu and Hawai'i to demonstrate their creative culinary skills step by step. Judges subsequently rate each dish. But with past winners returning to reclaim their spot and Maui's own Chef Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea and MiGRANT and Top Chef Bravo season ten finalist, the bar has been raised. Welcome back Nick Mastracusa who claimed the top prize last year for his delicate dish of Maui Onion & Uni Flan. Chef Jojo Vasquez is also back. His winning dish in 2012 was Liver with Maui Kula Onions. Chef James McDonald beefs up the competition. His Upcountry Ravioli garnered him the top prize in 2010. The Recipe Contest is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. Center Stage.

Throughout the day, chefs are onstage for chef demonstrations and, finally, the Recipe Contest.

With each demonstration chefs offer samples for the general public. James McDonald of 'Aina Gourmet and The Feast at Lele will have Smoked Nairagi with Picked Maui Onions and Mango Coulis, Jojo Vasquez of The Plantation House Restaurant is set to prepare Stuffed Maui Onion Risotto with Adobo Glazed Pork Belly. A first time participant, "Mark Gooch" Noguchi from Pili Group on O'ahu, sources from local farmers Gerry and Janet Ross for his dish - Charred Maui Onion, Kupa'a Farm Potato, Bacon Jam, Sauce Romesco. Returning champion Nick Mastracusa of Kuki'o on the island of Hawai'i will prepare Maui Onion "Caprese Salad", Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Truffles, Balsamic Onion Conserva. Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea and MiGRANT offers French Onion Tsukemen. And, Chris Kulis of Capische makes Maui Onion Gnocchi, Caramelized Maui Onion Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Kula Onion Confit.