Did This: Taste of the Hawaiian Range

OMG. Last week I posted that I was headed to Taste of the Hawaiian Range for the first time, the biggest celebration of grass-fed animals in the state. I had seen pictures, but I really had no idea how huge the event was until I got there. And you won’t, either, until you see it for yourself.

There were easily about 1,200 people at this 18th annual event to eat the meat that 35 chefs were cooking, plus a couple dozen other food booths showcasing the varied bounty that Hawaii Island has to offer. Just to give you a comparison, the Hawaii Foodbank’s “Great Chefs Fight Hunger” only has 20 to 24 booths, and I can’t ever eat everything they have. That, like many other Oahu events, costs more than double the admission to the Taste of the Hawaiian Range ($40 presale, $60 at the door). Even if you cut the Taste of the Hawaiian Range in half, the cost-to-value ratio is still higher than anything you’ll find on Oahu.

How do they pull this off? Well, Hawaii Island is big. It’s got a lot of ag land, much of it owned by Kamehameha Schools, as we learned on my recent ag tour. Kamehameha Schools works with farmers, resorts and restaurants to bring partnerships that promote sustainability. We all talk about eating local products; on Hawaii Island, they really make this a part of their lives. The food is so much better when you eat it fresh, more so when it’s gathered within 100 miles or less. And when you meet the people who are growing the food, it makes the meal much more meaningful. Other sponsorship that helps keep costs down comes from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii County Research and Development, Big Island Resource Conservation & Development, Hawaii Community College Food Service & Culinary Program and KTA SuperStores. The event itself is a partnership between CTAHR, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Kulana Foods and community volunteers.

Taste of the Hawaiian Range

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I have never seen a hotel ballroom with this many people for a food event. Perhaps at the Blaisdell, but not a hotel. There were easily 1,200 attendees.

But wait! There’s more. That was just the inside — although most of the booths were in the ballroom. There were about a dozen booths outside, where chefs were cooking, live.

Taste of the Hawaiian Range

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Many of the featured chefs were outside on the lanai, which made sense because of the live cooking.

One last note, and I didn’t realize this until I talked to @LocalBoyHawaii, who flew over from Oahu to attend: The Hilton Waikoloa offers special rates for the Taste of the Hawaiian Range. This time, it was $229, which included two tickets to the event … so it comes out to $149, really. I was pretty blown away at the incredible deal all of this was. I don’t mean to gush, but you just don’t get this kind of thing on Oahu (or Maui, actually). Here’s a quick look at some of the things you’ll see at the resort, not counting the tram or the boat bus.

Hilton Waikoloa at a glance

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Hopefully I’ll see you there next year! These are just a few of the photos. To see the entire set, click here.

Disclaimer: The hotel room was sponsored by the Hilton Waikoloa.