Tasting Kauai's intimate food tours bring clients up close to island foods and where they come from. // © 2016 Pono Photo/Daniel Lane
Feature image (above): BLT Steak's cooking classes are followed by a three-course lunch with wine. // © 2016 ESquared Hospitality
In today’s world of travel, food isn’t just fuel. These days, a meal is a savory symbol of a destination’s history, heritage and people.
Hawaii has become a leader in the fast-growing food tourism movement. Not only are creative new restaurants opening each month, but tours and activities are highlighting the unique cuisines and cultures of the Aloha State. Well-informed travel agents can help their clients plan at least part of each day’s itinerary around a meaningful meal or culinary activity.
Following are four of the latest ways that Hawaii is helping clients tap their inner foodie.
BLT Steak Cooking Classes, Oahu
BLT Steak Waikiki recently launched a series of cooking classes to help clients learn tricks of the trade from the restaurant’s chef, Guillaume Thivet. Offered monthly, the three-hour sessions appeal to all skill levels. They start with a cooking demonstration and are followed by a three-course lunch with wine. Upcoming topics include Tailgating, Valentine’s Day, Cooking Local and Father’s Day.
“As the desire to source ingredients locally becomes more and more of a priority for restaurants and guests alike, chef Guillaume is sharing his appreciation for Hawaii’s farmers and purveyors with class participants,” said Andrew Spinelli, general manager for BLT Steak Waikiki. “Ultimately, our classes provide a fun setting for food lovers to gather and celebrate Hawaii’s cuisine.”
Each class costs $100 per person. For reservations, which are recommended, call 808-683-7440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
He Aina Ola Farm Tour and Dinner, Kauai
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is promoting He Aina Ola Farm Dinner, its new walking tour and dinner highlighting Hawaii’s history and agriculture. It begins in the gardens of the Waipa Foundation, which works to protect the natural and cultural riches of Kauai’s north shore. Guests then enjoy a three-course dinner with wine prepared by the hotel’s culinary team using seasonal, local ingredients, including produce grown at Waipa.
“Our visitors are often repeat guests who are looking for something new to experience,” said Denise Wardlow, general manager for The Westin Princeville. “The tours offer a chance for our guests to ask questions about the host culture; to touch, smell and taste Kauai’s bounty; and to enjoy live entertainment from the Waipa Foundation ‘ohana’ (family). It’s an authentic, intimate experience that guests can’t find anywhere else.”
Open to the public, He Aina Ola takes place twice monthly. Rates are $135 per person.
Taste of Kualoa, Oahu
Kualoa, located in windward Oahu, isn’t just a tourist attraction. It’s a 4,000-acre immersion in history, culture and sustainability. Its new Taste of Kualoa Tour showcases the range of its agricultural operations while helping clients get hands-on with its practices and products.
At Kualoa’s shrimp and tilapia ponds, clients on the tour learn how to throw net, an ancient fishing technique. They then eat the fresh-caught seafood, which is cooked right before their eyes. They also tour fruit gardens and sample tropical smoothies. In the ranch lands, they learn how to rope steer and savor Kualoa’s locally grown beef and produce.
“The tour visits real agricultural operations, not places contrived for the guests’ benefit,” said John Morgan, Kualoa’s general manager. “We give people the rare opportunity to interact with farmers. Better yet, our guests get to taste food that’s grown right here.”
Taste of Kualoa costs $109 for adults and $89 for children.
Four-year-old Tasting Kauai continues to reinvent itself. The company recently started offering its Royal Coconut Coast tour every week due to popular demand; it launched a Farmers Market tour, with tips on picking produce; it just updated its restaurant guidebook; and it introduced the Tasting Kauai restaurant guide app, with searchable filters for price, dress code, location and diet.
Since Tasting Kauai’s tours constantly change based on what’s in season, travel agents can suggest it to repeat and new visitors alike. It offers a 20 percent commission.
“My goal is to educate palates by taking people on food adventures and to create edible experiences that are win-win-win,” said Marta Lane, owner of Tasting Kauai. “Our guests eat well while learning about Kauai’s culture. After our tours, they feel connected to the island and the residents in a meaningful way.”