Grazing away at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range
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More than 30 chefs from the island’s best restaurants gathered at the Hilton Waikoloa Village last Friday, Oct. 4, to showcase the adventurous side of their culinary skills. The 18th annual Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range, sprawled across the lagoon lanai and through the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton to the delight of several hundred hungry guests.
The purpose of this annual event is to promote an educational venue to encourage and support local sustainable agricultural practices. It brings together chefs, food producers and consumers for the purpose of creating community and sustainability.
Sustainable agriculture is a method of producing food in a way that protects the environment and the health of the community. It’s a way to produce nutritious food and to consider animal welfare without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.
The star of this year’s show was dry-aged, grass-finished beef that was raised locally and humanely here on Hawaii Island. Free of antibiotics and hormones, these cattle are grass-fed their entire lives after being weaned. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat and calories than factory farmed beef, and contains beneficial nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and the cancer fighting, conjugated linoleic acid.
Participating chefs were each assigned to prepare 100 pounds of a specific cut of meat. Whether it was locally sourced beef, pork, lamb, mutton, or goat, the menu was exotic, creative, and had something for everyone. For the more adventurous epicures, there was smoked tongue, feral pig, and bull testicles (aka Rocky Mountain oysters). For the more delicate palates there was ground beef tacos and brisket. Both the refined and indiscriminating grazers delighted in a festive evening that was entertaining and educational.
“The primary reason to assign all the beef cuts is for chefs and attendees to get acquainted with them while having fun,” said Jeri Moniz, event chairperson and rancher. “By utilizing the whole animal, there’s no waste and the value of the animal goes up. This is important for our livestock industry.”
Guests also had the opportunity to talk story with local farmers, ranchers, and food producers while sampling fresh produce and products such as local honey, jam, coffee, honey ginger ale, rum cake, papaya smoothies, and more.
Those who wanted to learn firsthand how to prepare and cook pasture-raised beef attended the event’s annual Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 culinary demonstration. This year’s guest presenter was Hubert Des Marais, executive chef of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii. A strong supporter of using local meat and produce, Chef Des Marais uses two to three whole beef carcasses per month at the The Fairmont Orchid.
In addition to nutrition seminars and cooking classes, the event offered dozens of agricultural and educational booths designed to increase awareness of the benefits of sustainable agricultural practices.
Representatives from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Hamakua Soil and Water Conservation District were just a few of the participants on hand to discuss the importance of things like zero-waste, research, and soil conservation.
Participant Anthony Bourdain summed up his appreciation for chefs who cook nose-to-tail, “Nearly anyone, after a few tries, can grill a filet mignon or a sirloin steak. A trained chimp can steam a lobster. But it takes love, and time, and respect for one’s ingredients to properly deal with a pig’s ear or a kidney.”