7 Reasons You Need to Go to the 2018 Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival on Oʻahu

Highlights include wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and a lavish gala that ends with fireworks.
Photo: Courtesy of Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival


The 8th annual Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival is saving its best for last. Or, in this case, Oʻahu.


The month-long festival, which started on Oct. 6 on Hawaiʻi Island and runs through Oct. 28 on O‘ahu, unites more than 150 internationally-renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers from Hawaiʻi and around the world.


Haven’t bought tickets yet? Here are seven reasons why you should book them right now.


1. This Year’s New Chefs, Period

The festival’s culinary roster is always stellar, and this year is no exception. New to the lineup is Nyesha Arrington, a Top Chef alum (Season 9, if you’re wondering) and chef-owner of Native in Santa Monica, California. She will be serving her take on comfort-food noodle dishes at Slurp, presented by 7-Eleven Hawai‘i, on Oct. 26 at the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī Beach Resort & Spa. Mike Bagale will also be cooking in this year’s festival. Bagale is best known as the executive chef at Alinea, Chicago’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, who announced his departure on Instagram in May. He now runs his own consulting company, Super Food Concepts, and will be one of six chefs participating in the annual Halekūlani Culinary Masters Gala on Oct. 28 at the luxe Waikīkī hotel. (Apparently, he surfs, so we can guess how the festival lured him.)


2. You’re Curious About Moringa

Moringa trees growing at the David Wong’s Mountain View Farms in Wai‘anae.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox


Most of us who grew up in Hawai‘i have heard about moringa, commonly known as kalumungay. And maybe we’ve even had it in soups or stir-fry. But only recently has this tree, Moringa oleifra, risen to the level of super-food status, processed into a nutrient-packed powder and added into smoothies and juices. Moringa will be one of the featured ingredients in the Emerging Crop Cook-Off, part of Crops & Hops, presented by the Howard Hughes Corp. on Oct. 24 at Ward Village. The event will showcase a slew of locally grown emerging crops—chickpeas, warabi, kiawe beans, ʻōlena (turmeric), ʻulu (breadfruit)—prepared by a stellar lineup of chefs, including Floyd Cardoz, Spike Mendelsohn, Mark Peel, Jon Matsubara, Sheldon Simeon and George Mavrothalassitis. The dishes will be paired with craft beers from around the world.


3. You Love Feng Shui and Food

One of the most interesting pairings at this year’s festival has nothing to do with wine. Feng Shui & Cockails, held on Oct. 25 at The Modern Honolulu, combines the ancient Chinese art of creating harmony and balance in your life with—what else—alcohol. The event, which sprawls between the hotel’s Sunrise and Sunset pools, offers cocktails and small plates by 13 chefs. Feng Shui Master Clarence Lau, whose clients range from five-star restaurants to personal homes, will be there, too, giving readings for 2019 to attendees.


4. Either You Have Kids or You Just Love Duff Goldman

The annual Keiki in the Kitchen event—this year on Oct. 28 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center—packs in so many cool activities, you’ll probably need to schedule a nap (for you and your kids) sometime during the day. There’s a reading and signing by local children’s book author Eileen Wacker (Red Penguin and the Missing Sushi), a fitness challenge with celebrity chefs, a marketplace for kids by kids and a movie screening of Ferdinand. But the highlight is cookie decorating with Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman. This activity is limited to the first 750 kids—and their Duff-fanatic parents—to arrive at the event.


5. Because—Wine!

Event-goers gather atop the Hawai‘i Convention Center for last year’s Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival event Uncorked, sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines.
Photo: Courtesy of the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival


Though the two wine seminars—SOMM: The Gang of Four and BURGUNDY: Through the glass of Domaine Robert-Denogent, both on Oct. 27 at the Halekūlani—are sold out, there are still tickets left for the wine-forward Winederland, presented by Hawaiian Airlines, on Oct. 26 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The event is billed as a “fantasy world for oenophiles,” boasting some of the world’s greatest Cabernets, including Opus One, Silver Oak and Favia. Sip 20 acclaimed wines poured by their makers and feast on dishes from 20 acclaimed chefs, including Roy Yamaguchi, Charles Phan, Masaharu Morimoto, Lee Anne Wong, Richard Rosendale and Chris Oh. And if that wasn’t wine-y enough, the emcees for the night are Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, the World Wine Guys.


6. Fireworks are Your Jam

There’s nothing better than ending a night of great food and drinks under a starry night than with fireworks. We get it. One of the festival’s signature events is the aptly named Decadence, a lavish feast created by 12 world-renowned chefs—Hubert Keller, Jason Fox, Nancy Silverton, Michael Mina, Marcel Vigneron—and served at sunset on Oct. 27 at the Ko Olina Resort lagoon. Helping with the mood will be a performance by award-winning local singer-songwriter Kimié Miner. The fireworks are the perfect cap to the evening.


7. You’re Giving Back

Every ticket supports Hawai‘i agriculture and culinary education. Funds go to local culinary colleges, grants for Hawai‘i chefs to learn in the kitchens of the world’s culinary masters, programs to help small farms get their produce to consumers, and classroom curriculum to teach children how to grow their own food in school and make healthy dishes as a family at home. In 2017, the festival hit a new record by raising $414,000 for 23 non-profit beneficiaries, bringing total giving to more than $2 million in seven years. So you can feel good about indulging.


For more information at the 2018 Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival or to buy tickets, visit here.