Here’s a $30 food festival: Maui Ag Fest on April 1

These locavore chefs are ready for next weekend’s Maui Ag Fest.

Foodie alert: There is a food festival on Maui that’s plenty affordable.

On Saturday, April 1, the 10th annual Maui Ag Fest transforms Maui Tropical Plantation into an impressive showcase for local agriculture. The all-day festival brings chefs, farmers and the community together to celebrate Maui-grown and -raised produce, meats, cheese, wines and beers. Admission to the family-friendly event is just $5; the afternoon Grand Taste with 12 Maui chefs is $30 presale, including admission.

Maui Ag Fest is an all-day festival packed with food and activities.

Throughout the day, an expansive Grown on Maui Farmer’s Market highlights local farmers and Maui-made ag products, while lunch booths from Fork & Salad, Maui Fresh Streatery, Three’s Bar and Grill, Roselani Ice Cream and Shaka Pops help ensure festival-goers don’t go hungry.

Additional scheduled events include a pancake breakfast honoring legendary Maui farmers, a Live Chef’s Challenge, a Keiki Zone with pony rides and barnyard games, “Kids/Teens Cook with Heart” culinary classes, “Ask the Farm Doctor” about farming topics, live entertainment, and a flower tent with interactive demos.

During the Live Chef’s Challenge, Maui chefs compete under a fierce time constraint to cook up the best dishes from baskets of local products.

The most highly anticipated event is Grand Taste, a festival within the festival. For the price of a typical entrée on Maui ($30 presale, which covers Ag Fest admission, or $40 at the door), you essentially get a 12-course tasting menu from the island’s top chefs and restaurants. This is a competition: Each one plates up their finest offerings and hopes for bragging rights, because after some serious noshing, guests vote for “Fan Favorite” dish and media vote for “Judges Choice.”

Which chefs are cooking in this year’s Grand Taste, and what are they making?

We got a sneak peek:

  • Jeff Scheer, The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation – Beef and Bloom Bratwurst
  • Anton Haines, Merriman’s Kapalua – Kahua Ranch Lamb Korma, Pickled Onion, Roti Bread
  • Alvin Savella, The Banyan Tree at Ritz-Carlton Kapalua – Katsu Braised Beef Cheeks, Sous Vide Farm Egg, Kalamungay Chimichurri
  • Charlie Owen, Hula Grill Kaanapali  Malama Farms Kurobuta Pork with Pickled Local Vegetables
  • Chris Lederer, Black Rock Kitchen at Sheraton Maui – Curried Maui Nui Venison featuring Coconut Milk, Kaffir Lime, Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, Chilies, Venison and Molokai Sweet Potato
  • Chris Schobel, Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse – Maui Venison, Onion and Mushroom Sausage on a Pretzel Crisp, with Poha Mustard and Pickled Pohole Fern
  • David Viviano, Cane & Canoe at Montage Kapalua Bay – Tempura Surfing Goat Cheese, Heirloom Beets, Citrus, Arugula, Fresh Herbs, Local Honey, Lilikoi Vinaigrette
  • Gevin Utrillo, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui – Tengu Futomaki
  • Jesse Pita, Pulehu at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas – Orecchiette Pasta with Rainbow Swiss Chard and Fennel Sausage
  • Mike Lofaro, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa at Grand Wailea – Salad of Roasted Carrots and Radish, Cinnamon Yogurt, Dates, Zaatar
  • Travis Morrin, Three’s Bar & Grill  Seared Kauai Prawn, Smoked Hamakua Mushroom and Macadamia Nut Emulsion, Yuzu-Scented Radish, Celery Leaf and Ikura salad, Arare
  • Tylun Pang, Ko at Fairmont Kea Lani – Evonuk Farms Curly Kale Summer Rolls with Ginger Peanut Sauce, Red Cabbage, Sweet Peppers, Organic Tofu, Sprouts, Macadamia Nuts

Here are some of my favorite Grand Taste dishes from previous years:

agfest-beef blooms

Beef and Bloom Pepperoni from Jeff Scheer of The Mill House


Surfing Goat Dairy Cornet Aina Radish Sorbet from Mike Lofaro of Humu at Grand Wailea


Kurobuta Pork Musubi from Charlie Owen of Hula Grill Kaanapali

As I’ve been fortunate to attend Grand Taste in the past, even serving as a media judge, I can tell you how fun it is to watch the chefs in action and see an outpouring of support from the Maui community.

And, really, where else can you taste this much locally sourced gourmet food for just $30?

Maui Ag Fest officially kicks off on Thursday, March 30 with a Grown on Maui Chef Collaboration Dinner at the Maui Community College. This is a decadent plated dinner by Jeff Scheer of The Mill House, Mike Lofaro of Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, MiJin Kang and Ashley Nakano of Andaz Maui, and Kyle Kawakami of Maui Fresh Streatery. A no-host bar will feature beverages from MauiWine and Maui Brewing Company.

The featured chef at the collaboration dinner will be Keaka Lee, chef de cuisine of Honolulu’s The Pig & The Lady. “I haven’t been back to Maui for at least 10 years so coming to Maui Ag Fest is definitely a treat,” he said. As for what he’s cooking, he hinted, “I’m excited to incorporate Kula strawberries and lavender into my appetizer, since these aren’t ingredients we normally use on Oahu, and we’ll make a Maui Cattle corned beef for our entrée.”

Mark your calendars as Maui Ag Fest will be an action-packed weekend of food and fun. Here’s the full schedule:

Thursday, March 30

6-9 p.m. — Grown on Maui Chef Collaboration Dinner at Maui Community College. Cost: $75

Saturday, April 1

9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. — Grown on Maui Farmer’s Market, Food Booths, Keiki Zone, Ask the Farm Doctor, Live Entertainment, Flower Tent. Cost: $5 for adults; free for kupuna and keiki under 18

8-10 a.m. — Maui Legacy Pancake Breakfast

10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. — Kids and Teens “Cook with Heart” Cooking Classes

11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Live Chef’s Challenge

2:30-4:30 p.m. — Grand Taste. Cost: $30 presale (includes admission to Ag Fest), $40 at the door

All Saturday events are at Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

For more details or to purchase tickets to the Chef Collaboration Dinner or Grand Taste, visit the Maui County Farm Bureau website at