COURTESY KAHALA RESORT & HOTEL
Cindy Hutson's mussel dish reflects the Caribbean flavors of her Miami restaurant's menu. She'll be the guest chef at the Kahala Food & Wine Classic.
Sunny side up!
Miami chef Cindy Hutson brings her own tropical style to the Kahala Resort
When chef Cindy Hutson adopted the slogan "Cuisine of the Sun" to describe the fresh fare at her Miami restaurant Ortanique on the Mile, everybody assumed her menu was inspired by the foods of Hawaii.
All events at Kahala Hotel & Resort:
» Ocean-front dinner with chefs Cindy Hutson and Amy Ferguson, 6 to 9 p.m. ($145)
» Cooking class with Hutson, 10 a.m. to noon ($75)
» Wine tasting with Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Clendenen Family Vineyards, 2 to 4 p.m. ($50)
» Dinner at Hoku's with Hutson and chef Wayne Hirabayashi, 6:30 to 10 p.m. ($185)
» Cigar conversation with Michael Herklots, 10 p.m. to midnight ($30)
Every two weeks, she receives shipments of island-grown hearts of palm, and she's patronized the Honolulu Fish Co. for years, but little about Hutson's menu reflects Hawaii because she's never been here.
That might change when she discovers new ingredients and possibilities during her visit in mid-June for the Kahala Food & Wine Classic at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. As the star chef, she'll prepare two dinners, alternating courses with chef Amy Ferguson of O's Bistro on the Big Island one night, and chef Wayne Hirabayashi of Hoku's the next.
She'll also teach a hands-on cooking class to a limited group of 20 to 30 people on the rooftop of the hotel's garage, overlooking the ocean. She'll prepare Caribbean Calabaza Bisque and West Indian Curried Crab Cakes with julienned mango, braised hearts of palm and passion fruit vinaigrette.
Also participating in the gourmet weekend will be winemaker Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Clendenen Family Vineyards in California, who will lead a wine tasting with tapas for about 50 people, cigar aficionado Michael Herklots, general manager of Davidoff of Geneva in New York, and Napa Valley winemaker Fred Schrader.
The event launches what will become a quarterly affair -- part of the hotel's effort to "bring back that element of entertainment to Kahala," according to managing director John Blanco. For each food and wine classic, the hotel will bring in a chef who has attained celebrity status in another region to partner with a local chef, along with a winemaker and a cigar expert. The goal is to keep it exclusive, at 60 to 70 participants.
"We want to keep the numbers low, so there's a certain social dynamic," said Blanco. Local customers are the focus.
Despite her lack of experience in Hawaii, Hutson is no stranger to tropical island life, and feels she'll fit right in. "When I first opened my restaurant, I had done a lot of traveling to the Jamaican islands," she said in a phone call from Miami, where she has lived for 28 years. Her first husband was Jamaican, so her children are half-Jamaican. "I started thinking, 'What do I feel when I cook food? What are my inspirations?' When I travel I tend to be brought toward sunny places."
But she also didn't want "Cuisine of the Sun" to limit her.
"There's so much ethnicity in Florida," she said. "I didn't want to be labeled a Caribbean or Jamaican chef. ... because when I travel I'm totally inspired by the cuisine of the regions. ... Basically, there are similar products every place I go -- just a different application of them."
She's so eager to explore Honolulu that she extended her trip an extra three days to include some leisure time with her husband and 21-year-old daughter, and hopes to dine at some of the most interesting local eateries. And after years of doing business on the phone, Hutson also wants to meet the folks at Honolulu Fish Co. -- in person.
But she's most excited about getting to know the other participants, especially fellow chef Ferguson. In addition, she said, "I hear so much about (winemaker Jim Clendenen). People tell me, 'Oh, you two are going to be the perfect match in a dinner.'"