Food Box

Alan Wong with his food partner, rancher Alex Franco, for the Taste of the Nation
Image: Wanda A. Adams

First Island Taste of the Nation not another stuffy fundraiser

The hope: No child hungry

Alan Wong is worried about the one in four children who go to school hungry. “That’s not a national statistic; that’s a Hawaii statistic,” he said, yelling somewhat over the band entertaining at Hawaii’s first Taste of the Nation event, a link in a chain of chef-driven events across the US seeking to end child hunger.

But being Hawaii, we did it our way, said coordinator Amanda Corby. With the focus not on the chefs, but on the farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food producers upon whom the chefs depend. Outdoors on the Great Lawn at Bishop Museum. Some people came in jeans.

And the Taste Committee, part of the national Share Our Strength organization, which carried out many programs to prevent hunger and promote food education, kept their goal and, the ticket price, relatively modest. They wanted a younger, non-foodie.

They got one: A bona fide foodie, I didn’t see the people I expected to see but I did see a lot of farmers, ranchers, even a beekeeper I’ve interviewed before in the past. Chefs, of course. And lots of people wandering the booths ringing the great lawn, eating amazing plates of simply and freshly cooked meat, fish and fresh vegetables.

Wong was paired with Maui Cattle Co., Ho Farms of Kahuku, Otsuji Farm in Hawaii Kai and Twinbridge Farm in Waialua. He made a simple plate of thin-sliced strip loin, “umami butter” (I don’t know what it was but I wanted to take home a tank of it), a plateful of glorious color: asparagus, leeks, pickled beets, green-and-russet lettuce, some golden mushrooms.

This was about as far from a boring, hotel ballroom, see-the-same-people, eat tiny portions of overly precious food event as you could get. And talk about green: It wasn’t just the lettuce. When you were pau, they took your plate to the recycling tent, where a crew literally deconstructed it: compostable food in one place, non-compostable in another, recyclables (paper, plastic, glass) separated. Sixty percent of waste got recycled.

Ever seen that at a hoity-toity fundraiser? One that raised $60,000 of which half goes to Aina in Schools (a farm-and-garden-based teaching program) and the other the Hawaii Food Bank with –Wanda A. Adams

Looking forward to next year.