What to Expect From an Environmentally-Friendly Cooking Class in Honolulu

Learn how to incorporate sustainably caught seafood in your next home cooked meal with Local I‘a and other eco-conscious groups.


Cooking class: Seafood gumbo

I helped myself to a second helping of mahi mahi gumbo with rice at Local I‘a’s cooking class. Photo: Katie Kenny



“Know the story of your seafood.” The motto of Local I‘a, a community-supported fishery, will resonate with everyone who not only cares about what exactly they are consuming but also those who are eco-conscious. Local I‘a works directly with fishermen to source only local and in-season seafood and connects them to chefs and consumers. Consumers subscribe to a weekly seafood box, which might contain a‘u, mahi, or a whole snapper (such as ehu, kale, gindai or taape).


In addition to the weekly subscription boxes, on Monday evenings, Local I‘a launched a Demo Dinner Series at Kaimukī Superette. I attended the inaugural cooking class, and not only did we learn how to make popular (and extremely satisfying) dishes using local seafood, we also learned:


  1. Which local fisherman caught our seafood
  2. How to cook from the managing partner of Local I‘a, Ashley Watts (a marine biologist and damn good cook)


SEE ALSO: World Water Day 2019: 10 Local Ocean-Friendly Restaurants on O‘ahu to Try Now


Southern Roots

Ashley Watts, a person with an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding the ocean, fishing practices and sustainability, is originally from Florida, and her first class was a demonstration on how to make her grandmother’s seafood gumbo using the fresh catch of the day: mahi mahi.


Pono on a Plate

Cooking class: Appetizer

The night started with a simple appetizer: seasoned mahi with pineapple and calamansi steamed collard greens. Photo: Katie Kenny


After a short introduction to the cooking series and a bit of a back story on both Local I‘a and that month’s guest (Slow Food O‘ahu), Ashley went straight into creating the perfect roux, which seasoning to use (and where to buy a few options) and timing for adding each element to the dish, all while explaining variations and history of gumbo. Most people in the class were surprised, for example, that sausage isn’t a necessary addition to the classic Creole staple. But Ashley taught us that any protein can be added because the four essential elements for her are the stock, thickener (or roux) a specific combination of vegetables (the Southern “Holy Trinity” of onions, celery and bell peppers) and okra.


SEE ALSO: What You’ll Find in 3 Local Eco-Focused Shops in Hawai‘i


Gumbo base

Tips on seasonings to use, how to chop the “Holy Trinity” and adding the stock. Photos: Katie Kenny


During the demonstration, the small group of attendees asked questions, took notes and drank together. The Kaimukī Superette is a small space but the intimate setting made for a less intimidating night with strangers.


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Friendly Cups, Flasks and Bottles You Can Buy on O‘ahu


mahi mahi

We learn a bit about the fresh catch we’ll be eating with this particular gumbo. Photos: Katie Kenny


QR Code 101

Just when you start to think this is just a cooking demonstration, Ashley shows how Local I‘a tracks each piece of seafood with a QR code, those square Matrix-looking barcode that those living in Asia know all about (they’re used on public transport, in advertisements, in stores and more). Subscribing customers and chefs of Local I‘a can scan the provided QR code to receive the entire backstory: when, where and how it was caught and by whom.


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Warriors Weigh in on How to Live a Sustainable Life


Cooking class: adding the mahi

Ashley adds the mahi fillets to the gumbo. Photos: Katie Kenny


The Takeaway

Whether you sign up for Local I‘a’s subscription services or not, these monthly cooking demos will inspire you to try new recipes and be more conscious of where our seafood comes from. And that alone may motivate you to sign up for a subscription box anyway.


Need to Know

  • $40 for Local I‘a and Slow Food members
  • $45 for general public
  • BYOB
  • Not every class is hands on
  • The next class on April 15 will focus on sushi-making with Ocean-Friendly Restaurants and Surfrider Foundation
  • Come hungry
  • Come with questions


localiahawaii.com, @localiahawaii