Monday | February 08, 2016
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Puna culinary fest features farm-to-fork cuisine

The district of Puna is preparing to host the third annual Puna Culinary Festival — featuring farm-to-fork cuisine — in partnership with Suisan, Kalani, Big Island Weekly, Kings’ Shops and the Hawaii Island Festival. The festival opens Sunday and runs through Sept. 14.

The festival will feature chefs from Puna and beyond, farm-to-fork culinary classes, local sustainable farming tours and special events.

The festival opener will feature the popular Behind the Scenes Luau hosted by storyteller Leilehua Yuen and musician Manu Josiah. A luau foods cooking class will precede a modern luau dinner, emphasizing local island produce. Stories of the luau will be shared alongside Josiah’s soothing music.

“The Royal Court has confirmed that they will be in attendance for this event, as it is featured as part of the month-long Hawaii Island Festival,” said Kalani founder Richard Koob.

The second annual Taste of Pahoa will be featured on Friday, Sept. 13. The diverse and sumptuous restaurants in Pahoa will feature special menus for the event. Participating restaurants can be found on the festival website. Reservations are recommended.

The closing event for this year’s festival is PupuPalooza, a whimsical cook-off and celebration of appetizers on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 3 to 5 p.m. Anyone who wishes to enter needs to prepare 50 bite-size tastes of their favorite pupu, and bring their entry to the Kalani EMAX at 2 p.m. for setup and judging. More than $500 in cash and prizes will be available for the winners of the Suisan People’s Choice Award, Kings’ Shops Best Overall Pupu, Best Presentation, Most Creative and the Best Use of Local Ingredients categories.

At 3 p.m., the general public will be allowed to sample a wide variety of pupus, with tasting tickets only $5 for 10 tastes. Ticket money will go back to the contest entrants to help pay for ingredients. Donations will also be collected at the door for the Hawaii Island Food Basket.

The Puna Culinary Festival is stewarded by the nonprofit retreat center Kalani, amidst the lush backdrop of the district of Puna. Cooking classes will be held in a specially outfitted kitchen on Kalani property. Chef and author Mark Ceranski will share secrets from his days of cooking for a Saudi Prince, Harrods of London, and other storied kitchens. Marianna Bergtold, trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris, will teach about the preparation of raw, vegan dishes which are sumptuously delicious. Stewart Blackburn, a former chef turned huna teacher, and author of the newly released book “The Skills of Pleasure,” will also be teaching a session titled “Shaman in the Kitchen.” All featured chefs and class instructors this year are resident in Puna.

Farm tours include Dragon’s Eye Learning Center on Papaya Farms Road, La‘akea Permaculture Community near Pahoa and Xanadu Farms in Kapoho.

Koob believes “good food nourishes the mind and soul as well as the body.

“Since Kalani was established 38 years ago, and certainly before it was fashionable, Kalani’s focus has been on fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients. A culinary festival showcasing Puna’s bounty is a natural way for Kalani to contribute to the community,” he said.

Guests of the festival will increase their understanding of culinary trends and how food in this special corner of Hawaii is grown and prepared.

“We hope they’ll come to appreciate the delicate balance in our food system,” Koob said. “The needs of future generations depend upon the wisdom of living simply and humbly, and conserving resources. We believe sustainable agriculture and green practices are the ways to build healthy, happy communities not only on our islands, but throughout the world.”

For the full schedule of all 24 events and farm tours throughout Puna held during the festival, please visit

For more information, to reserve tickets or Kalani meals, lend support to programs or to request an auxiliary aid or modification, please call 965-7828 or email


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