October, 11 2012


Vegetarian and gluten free are two terms that Chefs are keenly aware of and most aren’t fond of because it diverts attention from the “normal menu” in order to create some concoction in the middle of dinner service. These dietary challenges often result in creating dishes out of necessity with taste and presentation secondary considerations - which is where we saw an opportunity.

Whenever Grown pops up, we strive to make the most local, most delicious, most inspired meal available in Hawaii for those few hours. The challenge that Doug Kocol overcame wasn’t just using locally sourced ingredients and not just vegetarian, but we made it vegan as well as gluten free! This challenged us to balance flavors within dishes without key components that most preparations rely on like butter and flour. We set forth to prove that these “necessities” could be eliminated and yet we could fill all of our and our guests’ expectations. After all this, we also decided to eliminate all the traditional items that would be the next on a vegan shopping list such as tofu, kale, quinoa, legumes and soy.

Menu ideas seemed to come naturally to Chef Doug while I, a confirmed omnivore, mentally tasted what I was hearing and thought I would anxiously order all of the items he spouted out. After a bit, we were clear - “let’s do it”. To date, at every event I have hosted there has been the question “is there a veggie option” - which was a large part of why we created this meal. To be expected, as I told the community about this dinner I heard how many people weren’t vegetarians or vegans and that gluten free wasn’t of interest to them. How ironic. I continued to explain to them that I also didn’t adhere to any of the food-limiting sub-cultures mentioned but thought that a lot of the food consumed within those dietary restrictions wasn’t as interesting or delicious as it certainly could be and that was our challenge.
The dining room was filled with about half omnivores who, after all, also wanted to explore these uncharted voyages of food with our vegan and gluten free friends. As the dishes began to flow, many guests were taken aback that our plating was also an integral challenge to make beautiful plates on a shoestring budget. We used tiles, banana flowers, flooring and rescued plates to present the meal with a uniquely artful and eclectic twist.


I was incredibly proud of what we accomplished and the dedicated effort that Chef Doug put toward these seemingly-limiting styles of dining showed that they aren’t as limiting as we initially thought and that they could produce delicious and interesting results. We hope that this experience will lead to others using more local ingredients in innovative ways and putting love into all food. 
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