The Kaua‘i Coffee Chef Cookoff

The first night of the Kaua‘i County Farm Fair began with the Kaua‘i Coffee Celebrity Chef Cookoff.

“This is our third cookoff,” says Melissa McFerrin, executive administrator of Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau. “Each chef competes for the charity of their choice, and we make a $2,000 donation on the winner’s behalf.”

Food lovers pay $25, receive a dish from six competing chefs and vote for their favorite. The contenders must infuse their dishes with local ingredients, and this year they were presented with a special challenge: They had to use Kaua‘i Coffee, our largest Kaua‘i-grown product, in their dish.

“This is a great start to the annual farm fair because we get to focus on agriculture,” says McFerrin. “We see an increasing number of partnerships between farmers and chefs, so this year’s theme is ‘Farming Our Future.’ We create our future by getting people interested in agriculture and by showing them how we can use what’s grown.”

Last year’s winner, chef Kahau Manzo of Nanea, competes for the 2013 Kauai Visitors Bureau Charity Walk. Big Island short ribs are braised in coffee and placed on a bed of sauteed baby bok choy and tiny mushrooms. A hearty Molokai purple potato lumpia is tucked alongside, and a rich chocolate panna cotta is garnished with white chocolate-coated peaberries.

Flatberries are the two halves of a bean within a coffee cherry; about 5 percent of the time, the coffee cherry produces one pea-sized bean. Peaberries are hand-sorted during harvest because they are rare and highly prized.

Chef Mark Arriola of Merriman’s Kaua‘i competes for the Kaua‘i 4-H Club. His Big Island beef is marinated in Blue Mountain coffee and braised at a low temperature for 30 hours. It rests on a bed of sauteed Kailani Farms arugula and mustard greens. Tomatoes from Kaua‘i Fresh Farms are cooked with house-made bacon, and the resulting tomato-bacon jam is spooned over the beef. Underneath it all is a breadfruit and white bean puree enriched with butter.

Chef Rey Montemayor of Kaua‘i Marriott Resort competes for Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank. Montemayor serves Kaua‘i Shrimp with Poipu Estate coffee spice on a bed of forbidden rice that’s drizzled with espresso butter sauce; a mini summer roll drizzled with a lilikoi coffee vinaigrette; and banana lumpia served with caramel sauce and fresh coconut marinated in sugar.

Living Foods owner and chef Jim Moffat competes for Hanalei Rotary’s “Save the Pier” project. As a first-time competitor, Moffat offers lilikoi creme caramel with Kaua‘i Farms eggs and lilikoi. The custard sits on a buttery shortbread cookie. It’s drizzled with caramel espresso sauce and fresh lilikoi. Coffee beans coated in Garden Island Chocolate garnish the dessert.

“We want to showcase all that we have here on Kaua‘i and invite these chefs to be creative,” says McFerrin. “I love to see the level of creativity increase as they use what’s local and in season.”

Collin Darrell of Grow Culture, another first-time competitor, competes for a garden program at the Aloha School Early Learning Center. His Big Braddah coffee waffle cone is filled with coconut chevre mousse and topped with beet cotton candy.

“I wanted to create something that celebrates being at the carnival,” says Darrell, who will provide food at the Sept. 15 Na Aina Kai annual fundraiser, “September in the Gardens.”

“We juiced fresh, organic beets from Ono Organics in Moloa‘a and we poured it over sugar that we dried in a cotton candy machine,” Darrell explains. “To work off the earthiness of the beets and coffee, we topped the coconut and Kunana Dairy goat cheese cream with lightly roasted cacao nibs from Steelgrass Farm and garnished with beet powder.”

Ron Miller, owner and chef at Hukilau Lanai, wins the competition with seared mahi mahi rubbed with a peaberry spice blend. The fish is placed on Ueunten Farm kabocha squash puree and drizzled with chipotle coconut sauce. A Kaua‘i Shrimp and Kaneshiro Farm bacon hash is mounded on top, and it’s garnished with Dahvala’s micro greens.

Pastry chef Viren Olson’s winning cream puffs made with Mundoloa Java coffee are filled with a blend of Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy goat cheese and McPhee’s Bees honey. A Ueunten Farm lemon confit glazes the top, and the bite-sized morsel sits in a pool of Kaua‘i Coffee Hawaiian Coconut Caramel Crunch sauce.

“I thought all the chefs did a great job,” says Miller. “It was really awesome to see local ingredients at the center of the plate. I am very proud of pastry chef Viren and team Hukilau for all of their hard work and dedication. The real winner, of course, is the Salvation Army’s soup kitchen.”

Marta Lane is a freelance food writer. Visit TastingKauai.com.

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