Yesterday, I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion called “Chef Champions for Local Produce” because a group from Albania was interested in learning more about how to grow the agricultural industry in their country, and we were asked to share why using local ingredients is important to us as chefs. It was an apropos discussion because 2016 marks the 25th Anniversary of Hawaii Regional Cuisine (HRC), and it’s amazing to see how far Hawaii has come. When we started HRC, one of our goals was to develop an agricultural network where all of the chefs divulged their sources, so we could all be exposed to more local produce and help the farmers reach a bigger market. Now, 25 years later, we are seeing more farmers markets than ever before, and a greater diversity of product being grown locally. Hawaii has become the first place in the US to grow chocolate, coffee, and vanilla, and our farmers are continuing to invest and grow new products every day.
I am proud of how far we’ve come, and I am excited to see how much further we can go together as a community supporting each other. The audience yesterday shared that their slogan is “Buy Albania”, and that’s very similar to what we say in our own restaurants. We want our guests to “Taste Hawaii”, and we would not be able to do that without the relationships that we’ve cultivated with our farmer partners through the years. We should all be proud that a small state like us can serve as an economic and agricultural model for a country as big as Albania all the way across the world. Let’s keep working together to support each other and make Hawaii a better place for our next generation.