Local Food-Based TV Show Wins Emmy

Search Hawai‘i follows a professional chef and cultural expert as they gather ingredients to create a gourmet meal inspired by the Island’s unique culture.
Cultural expert Kainoa Horcajo co-hosts SEARCH Hawai‘i, a 30-minute food program airing on KHON, with chef Mike Lofaro. The show won a regional Emmy on Saturday.
Photo: Courtesy of SEARCH Hawai‘i


These two could not be more different, at least at first glance.


Chef Mike Lofaro and cultural expert Kainoa Horcajo emerge from a rental Jeep Wrangler at ‘Iliahi, the former home of a Grove Farms’ plantation manager on Kaua‘i, to meet with farm worker Boyd Gayagas. Gayagas and his friends are taking the two pig hunting.


Lofaro, who hails from a small East Coast island, is dressed in a long-sleeve, dry-fit workout top and very clean pants and shoes. Horcajo, born and raised on Maui, is wearing an Army-green, long-sleeve tee, camo pants and shoes held together with duct tape.


But the unlikely pairing of these guys as co-hosts of a new food show on KHON somehow makes sense.


Search Hawai‘i follows Lofaro, the executive sous chef at the Grand Wailea, and Horcajo, the resort's Hawaiian cultural ambassador, as they gather ingredients found in nature to create a gourmet meal based on aspects of Hawaiian culture. The 30-minute program debuted in October on KHON, and continues to air at 9 p.m., Saturdays on KHON, and repeats on 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays on CW93.


This past Saturday, the program won a regional Emmy in the Lifestyle Program category for an episode featuring the island of Kaua‘i. (Hawai‘i News Now’s Lynn Kawano Kresta, reporter, and Tine Howard, editor/photographer, also earned an Emmy for their feature news report “Desperate for a Diagnosis.”)


Tonight, on CW93, the award-winning Kaua‘i episode will air again, in case you missed it. The shows are also available for viewing on KHON’s website.


“It’s an ‘adventure culinary’ show,” says Yvonne Beigel, the show’s executive producer, who handles public relations and marketing for the Grand Wailea. (KHON’s Kathy Muneno is also a producer and host on the show.) “The thing about Mike and Kainoa is that they’re adventurous. What you see them doing on the show is what they do in their real life. Mike is known as the ‘waterman chef’ on Maui. He’s in the ocean almost every day, fishing, spear fishing, paddling or surfing. Kainoa has a house in the valley, and he loves to be in the mountains. It’s so natural for them to share their love of adventure and outdoors with each other and the audience. The viewers really like the cooking part, too. We get lots of emails for the recipes after the show.”


The idea for the show is based on the Grand Wailea’s monthly five-course Ka Mālama dinners, for which Lofaro and Horcajo forage, fish and gather foods based on the ancient Hawaiian moon calendar.


“Once they started hanging out together, they became great friends,” Biegel says. “Their natural chemistry on the show is real. They are genuine friends.”


In the Kaua‘i episode, Lofaro cooks the pig they hunted in a traditional imu. He makes a unique rub using grated ʻōlena (turmeric), ginger, garlic, onions, lemongrass, green onions, tamarind sauce and shoyu. Then the pair go hunting for frogs—yes, frogs—in a ditch. Those are braised and simmered in coconut.


Next week, the crew leaves for New York City to meet up with the Hōkūle‘a, the double-hulled voyaging canoe that’s traveling around the world, to shoot a one-hour special that will air in September. Lofaro will sail with the canoe and cook for the crew onboard.


The hope is that viewers will consider using local ingredients while learning about Hawai‘i’s unique culture and traditions and the people who farm, fish and cook throughout the Islands.


“Mike and Kainoa do whatever it takes, often without much sleep,” Biegel says. “There are no divas on this show. Everyone on this crew contributes creatively to the show, and we work so well together. We are just excited to be able to share the stories of Hawai‘i and the people of Hawai‘i.”


Airs 9 p.m. Saturdays on KHON, repeats at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on CW93, searchhawaiitv.com