This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival as both a guest, and a volunteer. It was a unique perspective that has given me much insight into the meaning and importance of the festival as a whole. I took a step into conjuring of what it takes to make a world-class event happen.
As a guest, with the restaurant's blessing, I attended the Feng Shui and Cocktails event. It was absolutely seamless. Everything from the ambiance to the dishes and cocktails themselves were inspired by the theme and oozed mystique and flavor. They even had a Feng Shui advisor on deck to give personalized readings. I was impressed by the attention to detail that was put into organizing the event and the craftsmanship of the chefs and mixologists. From Chandra Lucariello's "pho inspired" cocktail, to a Ming Tsai's blast of flavor, the event was able to demonstrate individual creativity amongst a larger theme. I was simply captivated.
The same weekend, I was bestowed the opportunity to pour wine at the seminars and at the awe-inspiring gala. It is through these experiences that I was able to take a look behind the curtain and see the true magic of what goes on. Everyone is on deck and ready. Ready to move at the drop of a hat. Ready to pour that empty glass. Ready to provide the best hospitality we can provide. But most of all, ready to work together.
Coming from a guest's perspective, I knew the importance of making everything flow smoothly. We needed to move like one cohesive unit, while providing our individual spins on aloha. I was honored to work alongside and learn from some veterans of this event: Mark Shishido, Kevin Toyama, Sean Isono, Taro Kurobe, Chris Ramelb, Duane Kawamoto, and Ivy Nagayama to name a few. They were true pros. Gliding effortlessly from glass to glass, and always providing that much needed smile of aloha to everyone they passed.
I was anxious and excited to be pouring amongst these seasoned somms. They had performed these magic tricks before, and I was a nervous magician's assistant, hoping to make the audience happy. But in the moments of the hustle and bustle, we are reminded of why we perform this show. Beyond the great wines, amazing dishes, pretty dresses, and elegant decor. The night concludes with Conrad Nonaka's vision: the building of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and to build upon Hawaii's culinary scene through education and creativity.
We all gather at this event, as a guest or a busser, chef or a somm, to channel the true magic of the festival. The gala will end, and the glasses will be emptied, but the true magic of the festival lies in whats to come. Providing funds to the culinary scene of Hawaii. We pour at these events because we believe in the purpose of the fundraiser. Knowing that this is all for a cause greater than myself makes me feel at ease. I have a purpose here, and I want to continue to work together to make the magic happen.
- Ariana Tsuchiya, Sommelier