In 1979, I left Seattle to take a job as the banquet chef at a hotel near San Francisco, California. Then operated by Omni hotels, that hotel is now the San Mateo Marriott. Two years later in 1981, I jumped at the opportunity to move to the Big Island of Hawaii to open a new resort for Sheraton, the Sheraton Royal Waikoloa...now the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Maybe I was just early, but it seems nearly every hotel I have worked at eventually becomes a Marriott!
Living and working in Hawaii was a great experience and really opened my eyes to some amazing foods and incredible people. I still remember the two great local cooks who would carefully tend to the Kahlua pig in the imu for the weekly luau; local fishermen, who would bring in their catch of mahi mahi, ono, and the occasional Marlin; and tough as nails Pua (Hawaiian for flower), who was three times my age and half my size, schooled me regularly on Hawaiian cooking like how to properly make Green Papaya Chicken. Of everything we made though, it was the first time I had Poke (pronounced PO-KEE) that still remains one of my most enlightening food moments. A simple staple of Hawaiian diet combining diced Ahi tuna, soy, ginger, red chilies and ogo seaweed. As common as chicken wings in a sports bar, Poke was an amazing discovery for a kid coming from the then pre-sushi era of the mainland.
So it was a real flashback when I was informed by members of Marriott's leadership in Asia Pacific of Waikoloa's sous chef, Jayson Kanekoa's recent accomplishment. The Hawaii Island Festival- 30 Days of Aloha, included a Poke competition on September 4, pitting the Island's best chefs to an all out tuna battle. Chef Kanekoa has a great recipe, and that became very clear as he swept 4 out of 5 categories and was named Overall Winner of the 2010 Big Island Poke Festival! This is really an outstanding accomplishment, and highlights our global approach to regionally important foods. If you ever need an excuse to go to Hawaii, it is clear that Waikoloa's Jayson Kenekoa's Poke is a sure reason to get to the Islands!
Jayson Kanekoa's Festival Winning Poke:
Soy Sauce Poke
2 1/2 lb Sashimi Grade Ahi (med cube)
1 cup Maui Onion
1/2 cup Green Onion
1/2 lb Ho’eo (tips only) seaweed
1 Tbl Garlic
2 tsp Cotton Seed oil
3 Tbl Yamasa Soy Sauce
2 Tbls Sake
1 tsp Chili Pepper
Brown garlic with cotton seed oil, remove garlic when golden brown. Remove half of oil from pan and add sake simmer for couple minutes add soy sauce and simmer for 5 minutes, place in refrigerator till cool. Combine remainder of ingredients with soy sake mixture including garlic and mix well. Alae salt to taste.
What's on YOUR plate today?