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Hawaii Gastronomic Journey – Part 1 – The Hawaiian Culinary Renaissance

Hawaii Gastronomic Journey – Part 1 – The Hawaiian Culinary Renaissance

Hawaiian Culinary Renaissance-  Tom in Kona sometime around 1981. Even at this young age, my foodie senses were strong

Several months ago I read an article in Travel and Leisure Magazine about the Hawaiian culinary renaissance.. The article conjured my childhood memories of family vacations to Hawaii and eating what seemed like the same meal wherever we went. Every restaurant had the same over-priced tourist food that matched the cuisine on Magnum P.I. and Gilligan’s Island.

Even as a young child, my foodie instincts were strong and I could sense that there was something wrong with the force. Don’t get me wrong – I can eat macadamia-crusted fish and coconut shrimp like the next guy, but I clearly remember that the food there was not fresh and that it lacked creativity. I also keenly remember my parents complaining, “That place was a rip off;  Tom, why do you always order the most expensive thing?” My response: “It was the only thing that wasn’t covered in coconut!”

Chef Roy Yamaguchi, one of the leaders of the Hawaiian culinary renaissance. Tom’s Foodie Blog was fortunate to meet him at the Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival.

Any renaissance is ignited by a small group of visionaries who awaken the local populace and push them to greatness. A handful of innovative chefs have begun to fight back and make Hawaii a culinary beacon for innovation. As pointed out in Travel and Leisure Magazine,  during the mid-90’s chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong embraced a fusion trend between the East and the West and put Hawaii’s culinary scene back on the map.

The Hawaii culinary scene continues to evolve, as it continues to embrace new trends. Specifically, there are a couple of trends that the Hawaii culinary scene is using to lead and influence the U.S. Mainland:

• Farm to Table / Snout to Tail

• Organic and Artisan Farms

• Localvore movement

• Ethnic dishes are mainstream (not fusion)

• Family Owned/”Hole in the Wall” restaurants are En Vogue

Sign at Village Burger showing that most ingredients are sourced from farms less than 30 miles away and many less than 5 miles away. This is a common trend on The Hawaii Island.

Why is Hawaii well suited for these trends? The local population has always embraced these practices in their personal diets and within local restaurants. Due to Hawaii’s isolated geography, the Islanders have been forced to be judicious about using local, low cost food (importing food is expensive, even between islands). As a result, their recipes are seasonal and based on the abundant items in the local farms, jungles and ocean.

The practices of the locals (kama’aina), are being adopted by major restaurants and embraced by tourists. As a result, Hawaii is starting to become a global influence in the culinary scene by becoming the leader in these trends. Native chefs are cooking just like they have always cooked: with their family and friends. Since local farm-fresh food is in style, tourists are now seeking out the local hole-in-the-wall restaurants, farms and craft food vendors.

Produce that slept on the trees the night before. “Farm to Table” isn’t just a trend in Hawaii, it’s a lifestyle.

This series of blog posts will explore my personal investigation of the Big Island, Hawaii culinary scene and show you where you can eat like the locals. I will be placing a special emphasis on Agritourism, hole-in-the-wall dining spots and some fine dining. I will also touch on a couple of places you can go to just relax over decent food.

 Link to the other Hawaiian Culinary Journey Posts

 

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.

17 comments

  1. Interesting! Thanks for taking me to places I never been through this personal account.

  2. Time for me to take another visit to those lovely islands!

  3. That’s one place i really want to visit!

  4. Would love to go there :)

  5. LOVE IT TOM! You sure made me homesick though… hahaha I miss being back home and going hiking in the mountains.. picking off a fruit of the tree, washing it in the clear water running from the mountains and just eating it!.. That is so awesome you get to experience being in Hawaii all these years.. not many people do or understand our culture..

    • So glad you approve Savannah-Lin! That means a lot to me coming from a local. I will be publishing the entire series in this group over the course of the next couple weeks and then publishing an ebook for tourist later in the year. I will send you a free copy when it is complete.

  6. I love Hawaii. Haven’t been there in a long time, but it really is the Garden of Eden. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us main-landers!

  7. I’m moving to Hawaii! I WISH!

  8. I would love to visit Hawaii! This is an awesome article.

  9. This is so great…I love that they are using local farms…so fresh! Help the local economy too! :)

  10. I have never been to Hawaii but want to go more now then ever after reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Come on Tom, take me to Hawaii :)

  12. At first I was going to say that you went to the wrong restaurants. Then you started talking about the locals. (My daughters family is Japanese from Hawaii), and the article became so much better Most of my cooking nowadays has an asian / Hawaiian influence. Love it.

  13. Daniele Holmberg

    You are adorable! I love how you talk about the young Tom as a foodie and share the childhood picture! Great post my love;)

  14. Nice journey and Thanks for sharing with us!

  15. I have never been, but I would love to go!!!

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