Culinary Arts Under the Stars returns, with Hilo students, to benefit dry forest nonprofit

  • Roy's Waikoloa General Manager Arnie McLain prepares Palenta Triangles with Wild Boar Sausage and Big Island Goat Cheese topped with mixed greens and vinagerette with Palamanui culinary student Brittney Badua at the Culinary Arts Under the Stars last year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Chef Ippy Aiona of The Koa Table, left, offers his Ahi Tartare with avocado wasabi aioli to David Vodden at the Culinary Arts Under the Stars last year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Chef Allen Hess of Mai Grille presents his opakapaka creation at the Culinary Arts Under the Stars last year at the Kings' Shops. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The professional and potential chefs of the Big Island are back together to create culinary magic.

The annual event Culinary Arts Under the Stars returns at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Kings’ Shops in Waikoloa for its seventh year. Featuring the students of several local culinary programs, the chefs-in-training can showcase their best stuff while working alongside the professionals from popular local restaurants, and attendees of the event can sample the food made right on the spot.

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Culinary Arts Under the Stars has become a staple event in Waikoloa, and like the food and drinks to be served, this year’s edition has some twists to it. It previously was a benefit for Hawaii Community College — Palamanui’s culinary arts program, and featured the students of the program. This year, Hawaii Community College — Hilo’s culinary arts program will be participating.

Also participating are the students of Kealakehe High School’s culinary program, who will be hosting a mock cocktail station, using juice from local island citrus fruits.

Another twist? Culinary Arts Under the Stars isn’t just a test for Big Island culinary students to see if they have what it takes to make it in the industry. The event will also benefit a well-loved nonprofit in Waikoloa that’s having a big weekend.

Proceeds from the ticket sales will go toward Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, which is also hosting the Wiliwili Festival at Waikoloa Stables the following day.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative executive director Jen Lawson is excited that the nonprofit will have an entire weekend in Kohala to celebrate the dry forest preserve and raise money for the organization. She said the goal for Culinary Arts Under the Stars is to raise $15,000.

“The dry forest is a really important native place,” Lawson said. “It’s important to the identity of the people of Hawaii.”

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s mission is to preserve, protect and restore a native Hawaiian dry forest ecosystem through land management, outreach and education.

“It’s a critically endangered ecosystem,” Lawson said. “This is a forest type that’s unique to West Hawaii and we’ve lost almost all of it.”

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The program will have an outreach booth at Culinary Arts Under the Stars to raise awareness of their mission. Lawson said the nonprofit was honored to be a part of a “fun fundraiser” like Culinary Arts Under the Stars this year.

Info: Tickets to Culinary Arts Under the Stars are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Tickets are available online at waikoloadryforest.org, and can also be purchased at Maui Divers Jewelry, Kona Coffee &Tea Company, Hawaii Forest &Trail, The Spoon Shop and Kamuela Liquor Store.

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