Presented by Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative, the chefs will embark on a Kalo Journey in September before preparing a five-course dinner as part of the Twelfth Annual Festival this November

HONOLULU, HI (August 5, 2022)—The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival® (HFWF), in partnership with Hawaii Executive Collaborative and Kamehameha Schools, is proud to announce the five chefs selected as finalists of the Kalo Recipe Contest. The contest, which was hosted as part of the Kalo – Nourishing Hawaii and Sharing It with the World initiative, was open to all participating and veteran HFWF chefs to create an original dish using kalo as one of the featured ingredients. Aimed at supporting local kalo farmers and increasing production of Hawaiian-grown kalo, the Kalo – Nourishing Hawaii initiative hopes to introduce new audiences to the importance of kalo in Hawaii while also acknowledging and honoring the stories of those who were raised with it as a central part of their values and lifestyle.

Of the more than 30 submissions received last month, chefs Bonny Davis – Kamehameha Schools Maui (Makawao, HI), Ben Ford – Ford’s Filling Station (Culver City, CA), Michael Ginor – Restaurant LOLA (Great Neck, NY), Dean Max – DJM Restaurants (Deerfield, FL) and Jason Peel – Nami Kaze (Honolulu, HI) scored the highest, earning each of them a place as one of five chef finalists. Evaluated on their creative uses of kalo, dish concepts, presentation and more, the finalists rose to the challenge of elevating kalo as a unique and important food source in dishes that would appeal not only to local palates, but to audiences across the country. Their dishes included Pai ai and Puaa (Pai ai Tortillas, Vinha D’ Alhos, Luau Leaf and Avocado Crema) by Davis; Crispy Kalo Sopas by Ford; Dim Sum Style Kalo Puffs by Ginor; Red Snapper Kalo Stew by Max; and Taro Gnudi by Peel. All participating chefs used moi kalo, a popular variety throughout Hawaii for poi making, supplied by Danny and Meala Bishop of Lau Kapalili Laukapalala, Paul Reppun of Waianu Farm and Ladd Ah Choy of Hooulu Punaluu. 

The finalists represent an array of cooking styles and regional cuisines that prove the diverse uses of the kalo plant within the culinary repertoire. For Maui-based chef Bonny Davis, inspiration for her Kalo dish struck close to home. “My inspiration for creating my dish (Pai ai and Puaa) comes from my childhood memories of visits with both of my grandmothers…sharing my memories of flavors and smells that came from their kitchens,” said Davis. Her dish, which includes a Pai ai tortilla, Vin D’alhos puaa, carmelized kalo, avocado luau leaf crema, lomi tomato, kalo cracklings and Hawaiian chili oil infused with ha (luau leaf), was designed to “utilize all its components from leaf to root,” she shared.

Next, the five finalists will embark on a once-in-a-life-time Kalo Journey presented by Hawaii Executive Collaborative this September. Beginning on Oahu and ending on Kauai, the chefs will receive hands-on experience working in the loi (kalo patches); tasting different varieties of kalo; and learning from farmers and native Hawaiian practitioners about kalo’s unique nutritional properties, grounded in spiritual and cultural significance. During this time, they’ll also compete in a Kalo Cookoff to determine the top three winning recipes and a chance to win a cash prize of up to $5,000.

“The awarded opportunity to visit Oahu and Kauai in search of kalo, it’s production, utilization and history is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am enthusiastically looking forward to,” shared chef Michael Ginor, one of the five finalists selected for the journey. “I am certain that after such an education, kalo will find its rightful place on our menu and in our ever-changing repertoire of ingredients,” he said. 

In November, the chefs return to Oahu to cook for a special private event as part of the Twelfth Annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival® Kamehameha Schools Presents Outstanding in the Loi on Saturday, November 5 at Kakoo Oiwi. The invite only event in partnership with Kamehameha Schools and the Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative features a unique five-course dinner will overlook the loi patches and beautiful Koolau mountains putting guests at the root of the source—providing them with a direct connection to where their food comes from and the farmers who produce it.

With the opportunity to touch, feel and taste the land and ingredients grown here, the Kalo – Nourishing Hawaii initiative aims to prepare chefs to serve as ambassadors of Hawaii’s agricultural lands and locally grown products. Ultimately, the program hopes to have chefs commit to putting Hawaiian kalo on their restaurant menus both locally and globally. “We have been running our dish as a special at the restaurant with amazing feedback and will be looking to find a permanent usage of kalo on our menu at Restaurant LOLA,” shared Ginor of his Dim Sum Style Kalo Puffs.

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s mission has long been rooted in supporting Hawaii’s farmers and showcasing the diversity of locally grown products through its annual epicurean events. While tickets are sold out for the Kamehameha Schools Presents Outstanding in the Loi event, HFWF attendees can still experience one-of-a-kind uses of local ingredients at any of the Festival events. Unlike other Festivals in the world, HFWF requires all participating chefs to use a locally grown, caught or raised product in their dish(es). To purchase tickets to available Festival events, visit Stay connected—follow HFWF on Twitter/Instagram @HIFoodWineFest and Facebook at @HawaiiFoodandWineFestival.

For Press & Media inquiries, please contact:
Kristen Lau-Grover, Director of Marketing & PR | [email protected] or 808-721-1849

The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is the premier epicurean destination event in the Pacific. The Festival features a roster of more than 150 internationally renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, sommeliers, mixologists, and wine and spirit producers. Co-founded by two of Hawaii’s own James Beard Award-winning chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, the Festival showcases culinary experiences, wine tastings, cultural engagement and exclusive dining opportunities with dishes highlighting the State’s bounty of fresh, local produce, seafood, beef, poultry and spices. Since 2011, the Festival has given over $3 million to support local beneficiaries committed to culinary and agricultural education, sustainability and cultural programs in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Executive Collaborative (HEC) is a nonprofit organization that provides backbone support to CEOs and senior leaders from different sectors who want to help build a more resilient economy and state. HEC members believe in the power of acting collectively and focus their energies and resources on areas where immediate and systemic changes will benefit Hawaii and the world. Learn more at

Founded in 1887 by the legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameha Schools (KS) is a private, educational, charitable trust committed to improving the capability and well-being of the Native Hawaiian people through education. In 2015, KS embarked on a bold voyage that envisions, in one generation, a thriving lahui where learners, grounded in Christian and Hawaiian values, achieve postsecondary educational success and become leaders who contribute to their communities both locally and globally. For more information, visit and connect via Facebook and Instagram (@kamehamehaschools) and Twitter (@ksnews).