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.
Visit our beautiful Kona Coffee Estate overlooking Kailua Bay or roast your own private label 100% Kona Coffee. RSVP required for the Farm & Roastmaster Tours. Come and sample our "Crack-u-lated Kona coffee"
Here at the Kauai Coffee Estate, you’ll have the opportunity to stroll through our coffee orchard, talk to our friendly guides, shop for gifts to take home and of course sample our exclusive line of estate-grown Hawaiian coffees.
Kona Lisa is 100% Kona, Estate coffee. We hand pick, sun-dry, custom roast for a remarkably smooth cup. Stop by the farm, or visit us at the Kona Lisa Coffee & Tea Bar at neighboring Paleaku Gardens! Enjoy a cup of Kona Lisa while strolling through the scenic Peace Gardens in the heart of Kona!
The Kona Coffee and Tea Company is an Award-winning, single-estate, 100% Kona coffee farm, that is family-owned and operated. We grow, mill, roast, package and brew our own beans. "From our farm to your cup"
Island Vintage Coffee Company has been providing the finest gourmet 100% Kona coffee for coffee lovers around the world. Extra care is taken in choosing only the finest coffee beans, grown in the fertile volcanic soils on the upper slopes of the Kona district on the Island of Hawaii.
Greenwell Farms offers farm tours continuously from 8:30am through 4:30pm Monday through Sunday. Take an interesting personal walking tour of coffee fields and the processing facilities, enjoy free samples of various coffee products, and see a working Kona coffee farm.
We provide guided tours of our coffee, protea, & botanical farm on the island of Maui. Protea include orchids, lavendar, and others. If conditions permit, guests can pick the coffee beans and see the pulping process and Kula's "million dollar" view.
Kau Coffee Mill is a grower and producer of coffee with 100 acres in production. Provides a full range of services from pulping to roasting for local farmers. A visitors center and retail store is located at the Mill and is open 7 days a week to sell our roasted coffees and macadamia nuts.