KAILUA-KONA — In just a few months, a group of local chefs, farmers and Hawaii-grown avocados have the potential to become television stars.
Farmer and executive director of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Ken Love gathered a cast of his fellow avocado enthusiasts Thursday morning at the Royal Kona Resort for an avocado tasting. It was accompanied by a television crew from Beijing, China, which filmed the group sampling a variety of avocados to vote on their favorite.
“Growing up in Chicago, I hated avocados, just hated them,” Love told the judges while the show’s crew filmed. “And then when I finally got here, I was hooked.”
That’s the kind of passion for fruit the crew was looking for. “Fruit Story,” the television show’s name roughly translated to English, showcases the history, farming and distribution of fruits from around the world. Love hosted the crew this week as they toured the inner workings of the avocado industry along the Kona coast. The show’s stop in Hawaii is part of its journey filming the second season. The first season was a success in China, with 22 million viewers tuning in for the final episode, and 210 million views online.
Yin Han, the show’s assistant director, said the crew would also be filming on Kauai and Maui this week to get a closer look at Hawaiian-grown papayas and breadfruit. She said Hawaii was chosen because the showrunners believe it holds the best of each fruit to be featured.
The episode featuring Kona’s local superfood superstars will air in February. All episodes of the first season are available in the U.S. on YouTube.
The tasting, however, was for more than just show; Love and other farmers use the data collected from the tasting to get a better sense of what kind of avocados they should be growing for their customers, the main target being local restaurants.
“This is just to get an indication of what chefs like. It changes, we’ve got some chefs new on the island and some chefs that have been here for 6,000 years,” Love said with a laugh. “A part of this is what we can do then is determine what varieties are preferred, and then the Fruit Growers society can graph those varieties, get those out to growers and have more available.”
Thirteen varieties of avocado grown in South Kona were represented at the tasting: CCLOV, Daily 11, Nasubi, Sharwil, Kahaluu, Malama, San Miguel Black, Mai Mai, Vargas, Schattauer 2, Dinosaur Egg, Linda and Randyl. Each avocado variety was displayed as numbered, instead of named, to ensure parity from the judges.
In the end, it was the CCLOV variety, designated with No. 12, that was honored the distinction of top avocado with 10 votes. CCLOV is an acronym for the place and position where the avocado variety is grown — Captain Cook left of Vargas. Daily 11, Nasubi and Shawil followed with six votes each. The same test will be conducted again on Feb. 23 at the annual Avocado Festival.
“No. 12, it’s the texture of it, and the aftertaste of it,” chef Josh Goodwin said during the tasting. “It’s very creamy and buttery.”
One of the newer chefs to the island in attendance was David Viviano, executive chef at the Fairmont Orchid. CCLOV also received his top vote.
“No. 12 stands out to me the most because it has a really unique, kind of fruity, sweet flavor to it,” Viviano said.
Although he is new to the island’s sampling of fruit, he was enticed by Love’s offer to be a part of the tasting and show.
“It sounded like a fun way to spend the morning and meet some of the chefs. And who doesn’t love starting the day off with some avocados?” Viviano said. “I jumped on the bandwagon with avocado toast. Very simple — mashed avocados, little bit of lime juice and some feta on top. It’s a good way to start the day.”