August, 26 2012



The Farm Fair with its big tents and carnival rides comes to town once a year and makes Kauai feel every part the small town it is. Between the 4H kids proudly showing off their animals and the singular Ferris wheel towering over everything else, it’s just good country living.

For the third year, the fair included the now Annual Chef Cook-off Challenge sponsored by Kauai Coffee and included restaurants on the top of almost anyone’s list: BarAcuda, Nanea at the Westin, Hukilau Lanai, Merriman’s, The Marriott and Grown, Grow Culture’s curated, pop-up restaurant.


I was contacted in the midst of Grown’s Pig-N-Fig pop-up event only 10 days before the cook-off and informed that there was an opening in the line-up and asked if I was interested. A bio and photo would be needed by noon the next day if I wanted to participate. As a pop-up restaurant, we don’t have a facility, Chef or signature dish and although we already had two events in progress for the week, we just couldn’t pass this up. An answer in the affirmative, and a crazy week ensued.

When I began telling others about this opportunity with the menu selections still in concept development, Garrison Price of the St. Regis asked what I was going to do. He then stepped up, collaborating in conceptualizing and creating a dish that represents what Grown is all about: local ingredients and innovation in preparation.

Our thoughts jumped between pork belly and breadfruit funnel cake but ended up with Beet cotton candy over a coconut vanilla chevre mousse in a coffee waffle cone. No, that’s not a typo: Beet cotton candy. It somehow made perfect sense to combine the flavors of coffee and cream with beets and goat cheese in a style that paid homage to the event sponsor, Kauai Coffee, and the carnival atmosphere of the Farm Fair.

The day came, our locally-inspired, innovation-driven recipes proved out, and as far as we know, we are the first to put a vegetable in a cotton candy machine. If you know of anyone else having done so, please let us know - we’d have a lot to discuss!

When the Agriculture tent opened to the public, and the cook-off arena started to fill with fans, the crowd seemed, at first, to cautiously take our creation but word spread fast about “that crazy beet thing” that everyone just had to try. I was so proud of this most recent collaboration taking fresh organic beets from Moloa’a and converting them into a different, unconventional item, but they are nature’s candy. We aerated the mousse in a whipped cream canister and the coffee roasted nicely as the waffles cooked.


Taking risks has been a huge deciding factor in how far and fast Grow Culture has been developing in our first year of operation. This very public event was a big risk, but it also has big payouts - not literally speaking. We received no compensation, but we did validate a key concept behind Grow Culture, Grown and the emerging Pop Up Restaurant phenomenon: a restaurant can be an idea … more than a place.

Being surrounded by chefs and teams from some of Kauai’s best dining establishments and having the opportunity to show the more than 140 judges one example of the types of innovation we do was irreplaceable. Mahalo all those who helped make this happen and who believe in us!

You must be logged in to access this feature
You must be logged in to access this feature