Home Grown Cuisine
Scroll to Continue
Simeon is best known for competing on the TV show “Top Chef,” winning the “fan favorite” title twice. But Simeon came from humble roots. He was born and raised in small town Hilo on a guava farm. His grandparents were immigrants from the Philippines who worked on the plantations. So he understands the unique, local food perspectives he learned here is what makes his cuisine so special around the world.
Lee owns Kaunamano Farms. He’s made a mission out of raising a royal herd of pigs – happy, healthy, macadamia nut-fed pigs, suitable in theory for King Kamehameha the Great. Similar to Berkshire pigs, he’s creating a local pork in Hilo with a distinctive, premium flavor. He works hand-in-hand with local chefs like Simeon, and supplies pork to select restaurants throughout the islands. The two are as local and 808 as it gets. Their passion for homegrown, sustainable food is evident when they talk, but even clearer when they cook.
"So, if you look at the recipes here in Hawaii, they’re based off traditions 100 plus years ago, but in its own style.” ~ Sheldon Simeon
Tell us about what makes locally grown food so special.Sheldon: Being in Hawaii with the best climate in the world gives us the opportunity to grow the best ingredients in the world, and right at our fingertips. I love having the volcanic soil, people geeking out about growing the best ulu (breadfruit) or the best taro, and applying these modern techniques to traditional ingredients. That's the way that we elevate things. We'll stay rooted in the recipes, but the better the ingredients that we get, the more we'll elevate the food of Hawaii.
Brandon: Cattle, those are big animals. They're not sustainable for Hawaii. Pork is perfectly designed to be the livestock of Hawaii. You feed pigs macadamia nuts, all that flavor, that oiliness that macadamia nuts have, it goes right into your pigs. And then we also grow bananas, and sweet potatoes, and breadfruit, and taro, all fantastic foods for pork. I mean if love comes out when you cook, love definitely comes out when you produce, and when you cultivate.
Why are pigs the perfect sustainable food for Hawaii?
Sheldon: I was super blessed to be surrounded by food my whole life. My parents were amazing cooks. The Filipino cuisine that I cook is through the lens of Hawaii. The recipes that were from my grandparents were based off of their memory of their short time that they lived in the Philippines. And that’s true of a lot of all these other families who came to work on the plantation fields when they were all still teenagers. It kinda all blended together to create this sub-recipe of what the traditional recipes were. But the recipes that they’re trying to recreate? They’re as traditional as it gets.
Sheldon, tell us about your cooking roots.
Brandon: People are always about 100% sustainability. How are we ever gonna get there? Well, we already were at one point because we had no other option. The ahupuaa system was a giant rotational system that worked from mountain to the ocean. It was a sustainability system that made life possible in Hawaii. And not just possible, they thrived. It made it possible for Hawaiians to live symbiotically with the land for a thousand years on the most isolated land mass in the world. If we didn’t run away from the ahupuaa system 200 years ago, it would be an amazing, developed hybrid by now.
How are you modeling your farm after the ahupuaa system?
Sheldon: When somebody invites me to a potluck, I feel it's an honor, and I wanna bring the best dish that I can prepare for that moment. Each crowd is different. I try to create dishes for whoever the audience that I'm going for. When you’re surrounded by your friends and chef colleagues, it's always a moment to experiment with something. And I love to see what other chefs are bringing to the table.
What do you love about local-style potlucks?
“In order to be sustainable, you have to work together.” ~ Brandon Lee
Brandon: We’re using all those fantastic techniques of Europe, but all the flavors of the Pacific Rim. So, you get this delicious mishmash of all kinds of stuff.
What makes local cuisine so unique?
Sheldon: How lucky are we that we can have Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Hawaiian, Portuguese, and still call it one cuisine, and that still be a part of what we are? It's a place where it should be an example to the rest of the country of how all these cultures seamlessly blended together, and live amongst each other, and create a happy unity. And I think a lot of chefs are going back to those roots, and being proud about what we have here in Hawaii.
It’s a peaceful morning at Kahana Bay on Oahu’s Windward side. There isn’t a single soul on the sand – a far cry from the bright lights and buzz of Waikiki. The waves here are legendary. Once, long ago, a Kahana Bay Chief challenged the Goddess Hiiaka – sister of Pele, the Goddess of fire – to a surfing competition in these waters. It did not go well for the Chief…More
Anela Evans sings a melodic oli (chant) atop a cliff overlooking Puu Pehe (known as Sweetheart Rock), on Lanai’s south shore. She’s just come from her day job as a cultural liaison at the Four Seasons Lanai, just a short hike from here. As she sings over this dramatic vista, she still wears her formal work suit. It’s a contrast that not only informs who she is, but the contradictions in Lanai itself…More
The subway rumbles under Columbus Circle in New York City. Inside the towering Time Warner Center is Per Se by Chef Thomas Keller, one of the best restaurants in New York. This is where Brandon Baptiste cut his teeth, working tirelessly 12-16 hours a day, perfecting his culinary skills, and learning from the very best, to be the very best…More
Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole performs a hula and oli (chant) in the streets of downtown Hilo. Her voice is pure. Her movements, powerful. In an increasingly modern world, this is how she connects to the Island of Hawaii. To the snowcapped mountains of Maunakea. To the rolling, green hills of Waimea. To the primordial, black lava rock of Kilauea…More
It’s 2 a.m. on Oahu’s breathtaking, Waianae coast. At this hour, the connection between the physical and the spiritual world intermingles. In the shore break, Keone Nunes is waking up his tools for Kahekili, the god of tattooing. He does a prayer and dips his tattooing tools into the water to make them aware they’ll be doing sacred work today. It's a fairly simple ceremony, but it's embedded in thousands of years of culture…More
Chef Sheldon Simeon and Brandon Lee stand in a pasture of happy pigs in lush Honokaa, north of Hilo on the Island of Hawaii. Tonight, they’ll be cooking for a big, local-style potluck at Sheldon’s father’s house. But before the dishes hit the table, the guys wanted to take a visit to the source – the farm…More
The sun rises over Halawa Valley, Molokai. Greg Solatorio blows the pu, or conch shell. At the other end of the lush valley, Greg’s father, Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, blows his pu back. There is no cell phone connection here. This is how father and son communicate over distances. The conch shell echoes across this beautiful, verdant valley. This could be today or it could 200 years ago…More
Dustin Tester stands in the warm waters of Olowalu Beach giving a wide-eyed 10-year old her first surfing lesson. Dustin grew up on the beaches of Lahaina. Her grandfather helped build the A-Frame cabins just offshore – the same cabins she runs her Maui Surfer Girls surf camp out of today. She has an infectious energy. That energy helped her survive one of the most dangerous waves in the world…More
The stars shine bright above Maui. Kala Tanaka sits on the sand overlooking the ocean on the west side. Kala is a voyager and an educator at Hui o Waa Kaulua, Maui’s Voyaging Society. When she stays on land for too long, she begins to long for the sea. But it hasn’t always been that way…More
The sun is about to break over the horizon at tranquil Lydgate Beach, just south of the iconic Wailua River on Kauai’s east side. Leinaala Jardin has a long day ahead of her. Jardin is a kumu hula (hula teacher). She’s here with her halau (hula school), Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinaala, for a hiuwai, a traditional water blessing. Tonight, they’ll be performing in front of 1,000 people to celebrate her halau’s 21st anniversary…More
Offering five convenient, scenic and affordable sightseeing lines to an array of Oahu's most popular destinations. The Waikiki Trolley is your ticket to over 43 fun stops of sightseeing, entertainment, dining and shopping throughout Oahu.
The Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel offers resort-style amenities without the resort price tag. This beachfront hotel features 452 guest rooms, 2 ocean view restaurants, an infinity pool, & is home to 20,000 square feet of event space, which can accommodate up to 500 persons.
Hali‘imaile General Store is Chef Bev Gannon’s original and most acclaimed restaurant featuring eclectic American food with Asian overtones, the essence of modern Hawaii food. Founded in 1988, “The Store” has been a Maui destination for both visitors and locals.
This oceanfront Resort offers spacious rooms featuring large lanais with beautiful mountain or ocean views, a private swimming lagoon and sandy beach area, oceanfront pool, and Luau show. Dine at the signature Don the Beachcomber Restaurant and Mai Tai Bar.
Comfortable residential-style accommodations, with spacious living rooms, large private lanais, fully equipped kitchens, elegant master suites and luxurious bathrooms. Experience a blend of relaxation and rejuvenation, marked by the unique beauty, culture and spirit of Hawaii.
Get lost in the 2008 world's largest maze (as featured in the Guinness Book of World Records). Take a ride on the Pineapple Express train and stroll through the Plantation Garden Tour and learn about the history of pineapple and agriculture in Hawaii.