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If you ever find yourself waiting in line at Hawaiian Style Café, make sure you have a big appetite. Especially early on a Saturday morning, when the line outside this local Waimea eatery stretches across the strip mall’s sidewalk and spills into the jammed parking lot.
A Pacific Rim inspired breakfast at Hawaiian Style Café is the first stop on Executive Sous Chef Jayson Kanekoa’s Chef Shuttle Program, run through the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Culinary lovers can prepare their taste buds for a morning full of sampling locally grown ingredients and tropical flavors.
Credit: Kirk Aeder Photography
But no one can really prepare themselves for the size of Hawaiian Style Café’s haupia pancakes. An oversized plate of freshly made pancakes, topped with Hawaii’s popular haupia, or thick coconut syrup, arrives in the middle of the table after Chef Jayson insists that you try it. The sweetness of the tropical fruit syrup quickly sends the standard maple syrup to oblivion.
Within minutes the table is full of French toast made from Hawaiian sweet bread, homemade Portuguese smoked sausage prepared by the owner himself, salmon chowder, and the hearty Da Tit Mok, a heaping plate of hamburger, chicken, spam, rice, and egg. It’s no wonder Chef Jayson chooses Hawaiian Style Café to kick off his local culinary tour of Waimea. With the tastes and smells of Hawaiian cuisine and a restaurant packed with friendly locals, it’s easy for a visitor to quickly feel a sense of being part of this community.
On the Chef Shuttle Program, which operates on the first Saturday of every month, Chef Jayson takes pride in showing guests of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa a glimpse into the local restaurants, farmers markets, and farms in his hometown of Waimea. Starting early in the morning, Chef Jayson drives guests on a private trip to this intimate gastronomical tour, where locally grown Hawaiian produce and ingredients take center stage.
This unique experience gives food enthusiasts a locally guided entrance into Big Island markets. After a morning of sampling foods, Chef Jayson prepares a personalized menu catered to your tastes, served at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa’s signature restaurant, Hawaii Calls Restaurant & Lounge.
“I enjoy talking story with my guests. In that way, I’ll be able to plan where I should take them because there’s something to be said about providing a unique excursion for each guest,” said Jayson Kanekoa. “I tailor each tour according to the season and the guest’s palate.”
After a short drive from Hawaiian Style Café, Chef Jayson finds a batch of buttery avocados at the outdoor Waimea Homestead Farmers Market. As he and the guests let a sample of avocado melt in their mouths, his passion and expertise begins to shape the personalized menu for dinner.
Chef Jayson and his guests sample local flavors from one market stand to another, while his creativity starts to bring a four course menu to life. Even though still full on haupia pancakes, it comes as no surprise when appetites start building up again with anticipation.
It’s not just about the locally grown ingredients that make Chef Jayson’s Chef Shuttle Program special, it’s also about the welcoming personalities met along the way. Pulling up to Wow Farms, one of the most prominent tomato farms on the island, owners Mike and Trisha Hodson greet everyone with a warm hug, before explaining in detail how their tomatoes are organically grown.
Soft spoken Flavio of JA Farms talks about his selection of greens with passion, and lets guests sample his produce straight from the ground. Just across the road, Luis Rincon pulls up to his strawberry farm and encourages everyone to pick juicy strawberries, some of the sweetest ever tasted.
While Chef Jayson is busy finding the best of the best in produce and ingredients for the evening’s dinner, it is nearly impossible to feel like a visitor when everyone is welcoming with open arms and true Hawaiian smiles.
As the Lincoln Navigator leaves Waimea and heads back towards the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, soothing Hawaiian music plays on the radio and glimpses of the ocean appear through the windows. It is that very ocean that hours later sets the backdrop of the Chef Shuttle’s showcase.
As the sun dips behind the horizon and the sky explodes with shades of pinks, the outdoor Hawaii Calls Restaurant & Lounge makes for a picturesque dining experience. A personalized menu awaits on the table at arrival, a four course dinner stretches out on the page, and colorful flowers garnish a pair of tropical mai tais.
Chef Jayson brings out the starter, which is broiled shrimp and scallops served over a spicy guacamole, alongside a bed of tango, spinach, and mustard leaves. The freshness of the shrimp and scallops is an easy reminder of Hawaii’s natural abundance in only the best seafood. Pairing the shrimp and scallops with a spicy guacamole comes initially as a surprise, but the guacamole exceeds any ever had before. The farmers market avocados creates a smoothness, while the combination of greens brings a crunch to the starter dish.
The first course is dish compromised of JA Farms greens, Wow Farms heirloom tomatoes, macadamia nut basil goat cheese, with a balsamic reduction. The colors of the Wow Farms heirloom tomatoes, bright red and a yellow green, make this dish stand out aesthetically. They taste like they were harvested that day, juicy and refreshing. A large spoon-full of the macadamia nut basil goat cheese drizzled atop the greens and tomatoes brings a creaminess to the dish.
For the entrée course, Chef Jayson brings to the table a Kulana veal scaloppini, with a poha berry jam, hamakua mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and Moloka’i sweet potato. Bought fresh from the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market, a generous amount of the hamakua mushrooms are placed atop the veal.
The mixture of the poha berry jam and the mushrooms creates a mouthwatering sauce that pairs well with the veal. The showstopper of this course, and possibly of the whole dinner, is the Moloka’i sweet potato. Uniquely purple in color, the sweet flavor of the potato is unlike any other, and its texture is mashed into a soft velvet.
To end the exquisite dinner with a touch of sweetness, Chef Jayson prepares a dessert of farmers market mango crème brulee with an artistically designed chocolate piece. The surface of the crème brulee cracks like a sheet of glass, opening up to a richly flavored custard with diced mangos on the side. It is simply the perfect way to end an extraordinary dining experience.
Knowing where the dish’s ingredients come from, seeing them picked straight from the ground and having them prepared that same day for dinner is not something the average traveler gets to experience. Having a true farm to table meal shines a larger meaning on the importance of sourcing locally and supporting the community.
But the deeper experience in the Chef Shuttle Program is not only knowing where the food comes from, but getting to know the stories and the people that dedicate their lives to it.
For $349 a night, the Chef Shuttle Package at the Waikoloa Beach Marriot Resort & Spa includes a two night stay (Friday-Sunday) in a garden mountain view room, as well as the Chef Shuttle and dinner for two at Hawaii Calls Restaurant & Lounge. For more information on reserving your spot on the Chef Shuttle Program, contact (808) 886-6789 with the code D60, or book through Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.