Hawaii Food + Wine Festival: Opening night final lineup

It’s not easy herding chefs from around the world. There has been a crazy musical-chairs game of last-minute cancellations and additions to this Thursday’s opening night event, Streets of Asia: Morimoto and Friends. Top Chef Masters darling Suvir Saran bowed out (Dang, there goes the pungent Indian food!). I signed up because Douglas Rodriguez was on the list—I followed him and his pan-Latino food slavishly from Patria to Chicama to Pipa in New York (I still think about his lilikoi ceviche). But lo, he gave word this week that he would not be able to make it.

However, I’m even more excited about his replacement: Mourad Lahlou, chef-owner of Aziza in San Francisco, and creator of what has been called revolutionary Moroccan cooking. This is the chef who Honolulu’s Chris Kajioka, formerly of Roy’s Waikiki, chose to work with (out of a list of offers from blue-ribbon chefs and restaurants) as chef de cuisine. In fact, Kajioka will be with Lahlou, and the dish they serve is a Kajioka creation—slow-cooked Kauai prawns with zhug, corn pudding, seaweed and brown butter dashi.

“He has really let me develop,” said Kajioka via email. “He’s let me go. We have great chemistry.” I can’t wait to taste that chemistry. There are still tickets left.