Category Archives: Alan Wong

Watch Richard & Tracy on KITV-News Tonight; & Some Photos

Richard's segment on KHON news last night was interesting! Always something new.

If you didn't catch the piece, titled, "Local farmer turns to natural cleaner to kill bacteria," you can watch it here:

Richard Ha on KHON-2 News

Lara Yamada of KITV came by and she interviewed us there, as well. Here she is with Tracy. This segment will run on tonight's KITV News.

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Here's Richard speaking to Olena Heu. This was at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room at Ala Moana.

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Olena Heu interviewing Alan Wong.

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With Vincent Kimura, of the Innovi Group.

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Olena tested her cell phone, and then some tomatoes, for bacteria, and then again after treating them with ozone. Watch the segment to see what she discovered! Really interesting.

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– Leslie Lang
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What Is That Circle Around Us?

Richard Ha writes:

A bunch of things are happening right now. They look very different, but see if you notice what they all have in common.

We are just seeing the tomatoes start to produce more in spite of the dark, wet weather. It’s the third week of February; and last year, too, our tomatoes’ rate of production started climbing in the third week of February. That gives me a good feeling, because I’d been looking around and anticipating this.

All around I see growth. Avocado trees everywhere are choke with flowers right now. The ‘ulu are starting to develop on the tree; the ones I’m watching are about baseball size right now. Everything’s growing and producing around us.

We spent Saturday in Kona at a get-together for Armstrong Produce and its farmers. We stayed there for several hours, talking story with everybody.

I was sitting next to Timothy Choo, a chef from Sodexho, which does food service for UH Hilo. Sodexho is a huge supporter of local products, they go out of their way to buy locally, and we had a big conversation about it. Sodexho is supplied by Suisan, also a big supporter of local products.

I was also talking to Troy Keolanui, manager of OK Farms. Ed Olson owns that farm, 200 acres of many kinds of fruit and other trees, and we help distribute their produce under our Hilo Coast brand.

They are located behind Rainbow Falls, and they have a tent, with chairs in it, where they can sit and look at the falls. They purposely set it up behind some bushes so it doesn’t disrupt the more common view of Rainbow Falls, the one that tourists look at every day.

Then we drove back to this side of the island and went straight
to Puna. Chef Alan Wong was there, and he was throwing a small dinner for the farmers he buys from here.

Alan Wong and I started talking about the Adopt-A-Class project. I
said, “Why don’t we do a broader Adopt-A-Class project this time, in Puna. We’ll take the whole district and go to each of the schools there, including the charter schools. Everywhere there are elementary school kids.”

He’s into it. When we did this in the past, Alan Wong gave a class at Keaukaha Elementary School where he showed the kids how
to use tomatoes, and passed tomatoes around and had some of those kids eating, and loving, tomatoes.

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Then yesterday, the folks from Zippy’s came by the farm. They’re going to open up a restaurant at Prince Kuhio Plaza soon and we’ll be supplying some of their products. Zippy’s has a strong “support local” program. When you go into any Zippy’s restaurant, you always see signs about which farms they get some of their products from. Zippy’s also uses local beef. It’s a corporate decision to support local growers.

Do you see the common link among all these things? Everybody’s coming at it from a different point-of-view, but the common
denominator is that we are so lucky to live here in Hawai‘i!

It’s all about local food and making ourselves food-secure. Our tomatoes are thriving and plentiful; where else in the country can you grow tomatoes throughout the winter? Other food is growing all around us.

Armstrong Produce distributes the products of many local farmers and producers. So does Suisan. Sodexo buy that local food.

And Alan Wong, too, is very interested in supporting local farmers and teaching local school kids. He’s very aware of the movement to be self-sustaining and is always reaching out to teach kids about where they come from, how their parents used to live and how we can live now. He’s all about helping people be grounded, and he comes at it with the training of a very high-level chef.

People are really helping each other out. Everybody has to make money, but they’re looking after the next person in the chain. If you’re the farmer, you’re hoping that your wholesaler is caring about you and not just the retailers. Everybody is look after everybody else.

It’s the only way I can figure out that we can help our own workers. Because, of everyone, who’s going to protect the workers? I’ve got to do everything I can to protect them.

There’s a big circle of sustainability around us, and it’s one that’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s really incredible, though it’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget to notice.

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First Tomatoes

Richard Ha writes:

When I went to pick up Professor Charles A.S. Hall and his wife Myrna at the airport Wednesday, I noticed a plane that looked like Air Force One. It reminded me that President Obama and his family are on O‘ahu for vacation.

Barack and Michelle Obama ate at Alan Wong’s, with friends, on Wednesday.

From the blog Obama Foodorama:

A long day of Hawaiian golf on Wednesday gave President Obama an appetite for dinner at what is regarded as his favorite island fine dining establishment: Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Honolulu. The chef himself told Obama Foodorama last month that he was expecting a visit from the President and First Lady Obama during their Christmas vacation.

“They’re adventurous eaters,” Wong said of the Obamas. The acclaimed chef, who sources locally and sustainably for his modern Hawaiian cuisine, cooked the special APEC Leaders Dinner the President and Mrs. Obama hosted in late November at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu….

 Read the rest

Here’s a fun look at when Alan Wong and his chefs visited the farm and cooked for us one time.

Last Friday, the Obamas dined at Morimoto restaurant in Honolulu.

Before opening his Waikiki Restaurant, “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto had visited us at Hamakua Springs.

Tomatoes from Hamakua Springs are on the menu at both Alan Wong’s and Morimoto. Tomatoes fit for a president!

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Tomato Tomato Tomato, & More

June and I went to the Leeward Community College culinary gala L’Ulu this past Saturday night. It was a fundraiser for the college’s culinary students, and each chef was paired with a farmer. We were paired with Chef Alan Wong.

Alan and june

Here’s Chef Alan, making sure his farmer is properly supplied with a glass of Reisling, and below, June stands with a display of Hamakua Springs tomatoes.

Hamakua springs display

Chef Alans crew making tomato 3 ways

Chef Alan selected “Tomato, Tomato, Tomato” as the dish he would prepare for samples. That is a two-colored, cold tomato soup made from yellow and red tomatoes. In the center is a scoop of tomato sorbet with li hing mui dressing. On the side are two roasted grape tomatoes – one red and one yellow. The taste combination is incredible.

Tomato tomato tomato

His “Tomato, Tomato, Tomato” recipe can be found in his new, award-winning cookbook The Blue Tomato. Read about the cookbook’s recent Ka Palapala Po’okela award.

Nishimoto

This woman, Mrs. Ishimoto, told us she was a great fan of Hamakua Springs tomatoes. It turned out she is the grandmother of Brian Clay, the Olympic athlete. We were thrilled to meet her even before we found that out.

June and I enjoyed talking to the people there. We felt the strongest sentiment of supporting local farmers that we ever have anywhere.

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Foodland, Farming & Future

We went to a great luncheon recently, on O‘ahu at the Hawaii Prince Hotel, which was sponsored by Foodland and the Hawaii Society of Business Professionals. It was titled “The Next Steps in Farm to Table.”

Foodland is a great friend of local agriculture.

Waimea market

From the Foodland blog:

Why Eat Local?

by Veronica the Visionary on February 21, 2011 / 11:48 AM

Did you know that if Hawaii were hit by a natural disaster, we would only have only two to three weeks supply of food – and that’s not considering that people would begin hoarding the minute that fear of the disaster hit! In the aftermath of a frenzy of people buying all they could, Hawaii’s food supply could last only a few days! I was shocked to hear that on Thursday at a luncheon our company sponsored called “The Next Steps in Farm to Table.” Hosted by the Hawaii Society of Business Professionals, the lunch featured a panel of restaurateur Alan Wong, local farmer Richard Ha, and master sommelier Chuck Furuya. We were excited to be asked to sponsor the event because we are passionate about the importance of buying local and have great respect for the three speakers and all they have done to promote local producers.

The event was entertaining and educational. Alan shared that if our community just increased its purchases from local farmers by 10%, this would result in an incremental $94 million for our farmers and an additional $188 million in sales for our economy. Without question, supporting local farmers is good for our ENTIRE community. As Richard put it, “Food security has to do with farmers farming. If farmers make money, they farm.” In other words, if we buy more local produce, farmers can afford to farm more and we will be less dependent on outside sources of food – and contribute to a healthy economy in our state. Read the rest

Here’s June sampling some of Chef Keoni Chang’s creations, which he made with Hamakua Springs tomatoes. Keoni is Foodland’s Chef-in-Residence.

June and salsa

“Hamakua Springs Salsa,” which is found in all Foodland supermarkets, is Chef Keoni’s creation. It’s my favorite tomato salsa by far.

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Dinner at Alan Wong’s

Richard, June, daughter Tracy and her husband Kimo (who is also the farm’s manager) and Tracy and Kimo’s daughter, Kimberly, recently flew to Honolulu for dinner at Alan Wong’s.

It was one of Alan Wong’s Farmers Series dinners, where he features a certain grower whose products he serves. It was the first dinner of the current series, and Chef Alan was featuring Hamakua Springs.

Alan wong

“It was a real honor,” June told me. “It’s the second time they’ve done that, and they are so welcoming. They treat us like we’re celebrities there.”

Richard said that Chef Alan asked them to speak to his staff before the dinner. “I introduced ourselves,” he said, “and talked about where we came from, what we do and why it’s important, what they do and how they support it. He let me talk about energy and geothermal; it was interesting to talk about that and how food security and energy is related. Now his staff has a better understanding of who we are and what we do.”

Richard said they were very impressed with Alan Wong’s staff. “They are very very knowledgeable and attentive. They really do know who grows their produce. I spent almost an hour talking to them before the dinner.”

As customers were seated, the staff took them over to the tables and introduced them. “We talked to the customers, told them what we do,” said Richard, “and invariably, everybody told us how much they support local agriculture. Every single one. It was pretty striking.”

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For the first course, Chef Alan demonstrated the difference between fresh grown Hamakua Springs tomatoes, and those from a can. He made soup from canned tomatoes, and soup from Hamakua Springs tomatoes, and let people do a taste test. Hamakua Springs was preferred in the blind taste test, hands down.

He also made stewed tomatoes, both canned and fresh, and served them in saimin spoons. “The one made with canned tomatoes was  dark red, and the one with our tomatoes was lighter. The other one had an aftertaste, like canned tomatoes do,” said June. You could really taste the difference, Richard said, and everybody commented about it.

If you have read Richard’s blog much, or heard him speak, you’ll get a kick out of what Chef Alan called this tasting: “Not No Can…Can!” Tomatoes.

June’s favorite course was the ravioli lobster. “That was the best,” she said. “It was about a two-inch ravioli stuffed with lobster pieces and a buttery corn sauce on top.”

June said that some customers asked if they worked with other chefs and restaurants in that way. “We said, No, Alan is the only one that does this. I was telling his staff we are proud to work for a company that has their produce in Alan’s restaurant.”

Richard pointed out that because Alan does that – makes sure the farmers and restaurant staff know and respect each other – the farmers feel more responsible for the product of our work. “Instead of leaving it at the loading dock and not thinking about it, we are responsible for it until it’s on the plate in front of the customer,” he said. “He depends on us to produce it for him, and not only the family but everybody on the farm feels that way.”

He was also glad to be there at Alan Wong’s Restaurant with Kimo, Tracy and Kimberly, he said. “They are the next generation, and it’s so important for them to be able to have the same feelings that we had. That was really valuable. It’s really unusual, to make the farmers and others feel important like Alan does.”

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The Women of Hamakua Springs, & Tilapia

Last week we gave our workers fish from our first tilapia harvest.

PlanningFarm Manager and Son-In-Law Kimo, Grandma (my mom), my daughter Tracy, and my wife June

We are convinced that oil prices will keep rising, and that it will cost more and more to bring fish to Hawai‘i from all over the world.

GrandmaGrandma, in the middle of the action

We are trying to fit tilapia production into a zero waste program. Since tilapia is a vegetarian fish, we will be experimenting with how to utilize our waste bananas as well as vegetables. We want to be prepared for when it might be profitable to produce tilapia commercially.

Full netJune has a full net

For those who have not tried locally grown tilapia, I can tell you that I was so surprised myself to find out how good this fish is. Chef Alan Wong serves it in his restaurant. That is how good it is.

Heavy net kimo and juneAnd it’s heavy!

One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to get a smaller sized fish, deep fry it very crispy and eat the whole thing.

AurellioGrandma giving some fish to Aurellio

Farming is a tough business. We’d like to raise our workers’ pay but are finding it very difficult to do so right now. June is the one who made sure we are growing fish for our employees. We are committed to doing this from now on.

Women of hamakua springsThe women of Hamakua Springs

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Honolulu Magazine Article Singles Out Hamakua Springs Tomato

For your reading pleasure, an article about Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Honolulu that opens with “one perfect red tomato from Richard Ha’s Hamakua Springs Farm on the Big Island.”

Read the Honolulu magazine article here.

Learn more about Alan Wong’s Restaurant here. (Hey, Richard’s picture with Chef Alan is on the home page now! That’s new since last I looked.)

Review how Richard got named “Uncle Tomato.” (Call him that at your own risk if you are more than 2 years old. Well, 5-1/2 now; that’s an old post.)

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Chefs A’ Field

RThe national PBS episode “Chefs A’ Field,” which Chef Alan Wong did with Keaukaha School, will air on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 5 p.m. It will also run on Saturday, November 21 at 6:30 p.m. and on Monday, November 30 at 9:30 p.m.

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Chef Alan is just great with the 6th graders. I didn’t realize how animated the students were until I watched the trailer. I can’t wait to see the whole thing myself.

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PBS Program

If you click here, and then on “Episodes,” and then “Episode 9,” you’ll find the Chefs Afield segment called “Sustainable Hawaii.”

It’s the program we wrote about awhile back. The one where they didn’t try very hard with their Hawaiian pronunciations, and PBS Hawai‘i refused to air it unless they fixed the audio.

They did.

Have a look at the trailer. It features Honolulu Chef Alan Wong, and Richard and the farm are on it too.

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