September 19, 2009

Farmer's Market Excitement


I had to do a lot of shopping for this week and I was so looking forward to my visit to the farmer's market this morning. I really was looking forward to shopping and seeing what I was going to find. I was not only delighted but surprised at the wide variety I was able to get today. I really like that I am committed to my Saturday journey to the market, because I discover such amazing things each week. I learn something new and I try to go in without expectation and that makes it so much fun!

I decided to do a photo shoot of the wide variety of produce I got today. I got everything from Rambutan (red furry outside and white chewy inside), Tahitian passion fruit (bright orange outside, edible inside), Star Apple Fruit (inside looks like a star), guava, Dinosaur Kale (exterior looks ancient), organic papaya, juicy tomatoes, local strawberries, huge avocadoes, Japanese cucumbers, fresh white corn, sweet Maui Onions, apple bananas and Thai Basil, Sweet Basil and young ginger.

I was like a kid in a candy store. I had SOOOOO much fun. I had as much fun returning from my shopping spree and looking at my loot. I had to take photos of this amazing display. I feel so abundant and grateful to have access to such incredible fresh produce.

What I know for sure is that my creativity increases when I see what nature has produced. It's amazing that there is such a vastness in the world we live in. I love the fact that the colors of nature are so vibrant and make me feel alive. Yes, I feel more alive with fruits and vegetables in my life! And I feel grateful for the farmer's and sellers that are dedicated and show up each week to provide us with their labor of love.
Now I get to delve into this amazing selection and create dishes that are bold, unique, colorful and freshness oozes from each bite.
Always Fresh, Always Delicious, Always with Aloha...

September 9, 2009

Salads and Dressings

Lots of people don't like salads and "salads" get a bad rap. I think it's because they think of head lettuce and a slice of cucumber or tough tomato set on top.
Times have changed. I recently was reading in a cookbook on Mediterranean cuisine how one chef years ago was one of the leading advocates of bringing fancy greens to our tables. Think about it, how many years ago would never have heard of "baby field greens" or "mache" or "arugula?" It is interesting because when I was at O'o Farm the farm manager was explaining how the chefs in the restaurant demand the really pretty stuff, such as watermelon radishes and baby beets and a wide variety of vegetables that aren't normally seen in your everyday supermarket. And then he said that they are finally getting more supply that they can use, and perhaps that's how a new vegetable variety gets introduced to the mainstream, and then people want it. I do know how excited I get when I go to the farmer's market and I discover something new such as New Zealand spinach or rainbow swiss chard, I just want more of it.

Times have changed. And when you think of the array of availability wherever you are in the country it's simply amazing. Here on Maui it's a blessing to have Costco because we get a variety of produce that doesn't grow here on Maui (blueberries, raspberries, figs) at reasonable costs. And also organic produce (baby field greens, carrots, spinach) that we also could never buy in such quantities at the price.

Back to salads. I grew up in an Italian household and my mother loved salads and at my grandmother's house she always served an Italian salad of romaine lettuce, escarole, tomatoes, cucumbers and a great red wine vinegar and olive oil. However, it was a great salad because it had those nice crunchy greens. I started getting creative and added the extras of carrots and nuts and other veggies.

For me I call a salad anything that consists of vegetables with some kind of dressing. Marinated vegetables are salads. And of course even a main course salad with fish and a hardboiled egg and lots of veggies is a salad. Being creative with salads keeps people wanting to eat a salad.

I was recently requested to make a papaya seed dressing. I did a little research and discovered it consisted of rice wine vinegar and honey! I made a few adjustments and it got rave reviews! The recipe follows.

I also make dressings where I use orange juice to sweeten it up. I try to use less oil. Another trick to thicken it a little is add dijon mustard.

For my sesame dressings I add sesame oil and sesame seeds blended. Again, for a little sweetener I would add honey.
Papaya Seed Dressing
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. mashed papaya
1 tbls. dry mustard
1 tbls. dijon mustard
1/2 c. rice vinegar
1/2 c. orange champagne vinegar
1 tbls. sea salt
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 c. papaya seed
2 small sweet onions
In a blender or food processor blend the sugar, the honey, papaya, mustards, vinegards and salt until the mixture is smooth. With the motor running add the oil in a stream and blend the dressing until it is emulsified. Add the onionand the papaya seed and blend the dressing until the papaya seeds are the consistency of ground pepper. Dressing keeps covered and chilled for 2 weeks.

September 6, 2009

Dishes that Are Puzzling Good

Do you know the feeling when you eat something new or different and you really want that flavor profile again? There are certain items that most people never make at home and they either are bought in a store or eaten at a restaurant. I usually go on a mad quest to figure out how to make some of those dishes. It could be a simple side dish or even a main dish, but it's something I have to know how to make so I can have it when I want it.

Namasu and pickled ginger are 2 of those items that I really wanted to know how to make. And they are so simple! What is namasu? Namasu is a Japanese pickled dish consisting of thinly sliced vegetables or vegetables and seafood, marinated in rice vinegar and sugar for several hours and can be stored for longer.

You usually find it as a pickled cucumber side dish at a Japanese restaurant. I found some really fresh Japanese cucumbers at the farmer's market on Saturday (these are the thinner ones with less seed) and decided to make my version of namasu so I could eat it as a healthy side dish when I got the craving.

4 med. Japanese Cucumbers (washed, with peel on)...note, the ones I used were med. size and not the huge ones
1 tbls. Sea Salt
1/4 Pickling Juice from Pickled Ginger (store bought or homemade, see recipe below)
1/4 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Rice Vinegar
1/4 large red onion finely sliced
1 large carrot cut in very thin 2 inch matchstick pieces
1/4 c. finely chopped pickled ginger

Wash and dry cucumbers, do not peel. Finely slice the Japanese Cucumbers with a sharp knife or in a food processor or other slicing device. Put cucumbers in large bowl and sprinkle sea salt on top. Allow to sit for 20 min. so that the liquid is extracted from cucumbers. Drain. Blot dry.

While cucumbers are sitting in sea salt mix the ginger juice, rice vinegar and sugar, mix well. Add the sliced onion, sliced carrots and pickled ginger. When the cucumbers are ready add them to the mixture.

Allow to sit for several hours before using. These can last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. I store in a tightly sealed canning jar. Serve with fish, top on salads, eat as a side dish with wraps and sandwiches. Enjoy.

Here's the recipe for pickled ginger. Please note that there is a difference in the TYPE of ginger you use for this. I discovered that young ginger is what is used for the sushi type of ginger that most people are accustomed to eating. I also thought that the pink coloring was an additive (read the ingredients if you buy pre-packaged). I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that young ginger when it is very fresh turns naturally pink after pickling in rice vinegar and sugar. I found that the freshness of my homemade version unbeatable and the taste absolutely invigorating. I'm a ginger fan, so of course I was excited to be able to make my own.

Here's a great link for everything you want to know about ginger:

1 lb. fresh young ginger
2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. rice vinegar
1 c. sugar
Wash young ginger and gently rub skin off. Thinkly slice ginger. You will need a very sharp knife or you can use the thinnest blade on your food processor or slicing device. Put salt on ginger and allow to sit for 1 hour. Allow water and juices to extract. Drain and blot dry. Put the ginger in a sterilized jar or container.

In a saucepan boil sugar and vinegar. Allow to come to a boil. Pour hot mixture over ginger slices. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. NOTE: the freshest young ginger will anturally turn light pink. Serve as a condiment with sushi, fish, rice dishes or any time you want to cleanse your palate. Stores for months in the refrigerator.
Explore, create and invigorate through your taste buds as you take yourself on your own culinary journey!

August 31, 2009

Seasonal Ingredients

The more frequently I shop and go to the farmer's market the more inspired I am to cook what's in season and what's freshest. And the more I learn about seasons! I know, I know, I'm on Maui and everything is fresh, but it wasn't always that easily available. Only recently have some of the large supermarket chains such as Safeway started offering Island Fresh produce. And some of the produce in the supermarkets did not necessarily always look like it was even still edible, the markets are doing remarkably better nowadays.

I am so happy to have discovered things like red swiss chard, baby bok choy or jicama and purple sweet potatoes. Red Swiss chard has the largest green leaves and a wonderful stem that is similar to beet greens. I love when I can get fresh sugar snap peas or chinese pea pods. And here on Maui getting fresh Kula corn year round is pretty amazing.

Yet, it is easy to overlook certain vegetables that look intimidating. I know that there are a variety of vegetables at the market, all kinds of leafy greens and other things that I will not even try. Why? I don't have a way to cook them.

So, when I finally decide to try something new I have to come up with a recipe. Sure, it's easier to find something to do with swiss chard. However, I will admit, it took many many months before I bought this vegetable. Why? My mother would never buy it and so I just avoided it. Habit I suppose. I love it. I cut it chiffonade style (See Below) and quickly saute and add lemon and sea salt and serve under fresh fish or with chicken. It's fabulous and colorful and cheaper than spinach.

Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetabels are cut into long, thin strips. This is generally acomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tihgtly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a shar knife, producing fine ribbons.

Instead of using white potatoes for mashed potatoes try purple ones. And since purple potatoes go well with coconut milk I use that instead of milk or cream. Purple potatoes are firmer and starchier so they take a little longer to cook.
It is easier to go for what you are used to and what you are familiar with. However, if you open your eyes you will discover amazing varieties of vegetables and other ingredients that were always there but you never noticed. It's fun to open your eyes and discover.

And remember, when you get seasonal ingredients they are more abundant and cheaper. Use what is available and eat fresh. It's fun to try something new and good for you too!
Always Fresh, Always Delicious, Always with Aloha!

August 27, 2009


I know that most people love cinnamon but I think that it is underused in most recipes. Most recipes call for maybe a teaspoon or even less. Forget it. I say add a tablespoon. I add it to as many recipes that make sense! For example, if I am making a pie crust with a gingersnap crust I add lots of extra cinnamon. If I am making applesauce you better believe that I am going to add more than a pinch. And I add it to baby carrots with honey and butter. You can get very creative and add it to salads such as waldorf or even carrot and apple salad. I know that I want the flavors to stand out. And cinnamon is good for you too! You can also use in savory meat dishes.

Today, it’s widely known that cinnamon is harvested from the bark of tropical evergreen trees. There are two main varieties of the bark: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia. There is a very high oil content in cinnamon which produces a spice with a deep, reddish-brown color, intense fragrance and sweet, red-hot-candy-like flavor. I know that my "red hot" candy craving is cured when I pour on the cinnamon. I even have been adding cinnamon to hot water and adding honey. If you ignite the branch of the cassia tree native to Vietnam it will spark, that's how high the oil concentration is.

A Canadian Magazine, Weekly World News (1995 article) on Cinnamon and Honey says:

WEIGHT LOSS:Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body, even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

IMMUNE SYSTEM:Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks.. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of Honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacterial and viral diseases.

I have been using Saigon Cinnamon from Costco that is amazingly intense, so different from the cinnamon that I have previously experienced. The intensity is remarkable and the flavor is distinct. It's about $4 for a 10.7 oz. container of ground cinnamon! Wow! Pour it on. And you know, even if they say use less, I say USE MORE! I am all about bringing out the distinctive flavors and really tasting what you use. You tend to eat less and have less cravings because you are more satisfied.

Cinnamon Cocnut Macaroon Crumble Recipe
2 cups unsweetened shredded flaked coconut
2/3 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tbls. ground cinnamon
4 1/2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced (to make vegan use coconut oil, a little less than 1/3 c.)
NOTE: you can also add ½ c. chopped pecans

For macaroon crumble:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss coconut, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pecans in large bowl to combine. Using fingertips, rub butter or coconut oil into mixture until clumps form, add honey or maple syrup. Spread mixture on baking sheet, patting down slightly. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool. Break crumble into bite-size pieces.

NOTE: you can use this for ice cream, pudding toppings, layered parfaits, or for nibbling! Freeze and enjoy.

August 24, 2009

Risotto - Made Easy

I love risotto. I love that it looks creamy and tastes creamy, but no milk or cream are used in this wonderfully versatile Italian dish. The key to making risotto is selecting the correct type of rice, otherwise you will not get the texture desired. Technique is important and once you know how to do it, you can multi-task and whip up fresh risotto in no time.

For me it doesn't take a lot of effort to stir and incorpore the liquid, as long as you only add enough liquid for it to absorb quickly, about 1/2 c. at a time. I use vegetable broth or chicken broth made from the remains of a roasted whole chicken. You have to keep on med-high heat and watch when the liquid absorbs so that you are prepared to add more and incorporate it quickly. Don't overstir.

The other important aspect is to use olive oil and butter at the beginning to soften the chopped onion and garlic (if desired), sweat them out and do not brown. Then add the rice. Then the white wine, about 1/2 cup. You can add a little salt with the onion, but finish seasoning at the end. I do add fresh chopped rosemary during the cooking.

I keep adding the liquid and watch as the risotto absorbs. I don't like super wet risotto. The key is to be sure to not allow the rice to overcook so keep tasting periodically. You can salt and season just before it is done. And just before it is done remove from heat. At this point if you want to prepare ahead for fresh risotto with a meal immediately layer on a sheet pan. It will stop cooking. You can add cheese and extra wine when you heat ready to serve. The risotto will remain perfectly for adding roasted asparagus, garlic prawns, buttered mushrooms, etc...
When you are ready to serve prepare all of your ingredients (shrimp, mushrooms, etc...). Reheat or gently adding warm broth and a little wine if desired. Do not overstir. Remove from heat, add grated Pecorino Romano, making the mixture very creamy. Add more butter if desired (I usually don't do this). Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add your ingredients: shrimp, mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, corn, etc...these should all be prepared and pre-cooked before adding.


Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Its origins are in North Italy, specifically Eastern Piedmont, Western Lombardy, and the Veneto (where Vialone Nano comes from), where rice paddies are abundant. It is one of the pillars of Milanese cuisine. To be correctly described as a risotto a dish needs to be made following the established process described below; otherwise the dish is a rice dish. The main feature of a risotto dish is the maintenance of starch at the end of cooking that binds the grains together as a cream.

A high-starch (amylopectin), low-amylose round medium grain rice is used to make risotto. Such rices have the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Carnaroli and Vialone Nano and to a lesser degree Arborio. Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best (and most expensive) varieties, with different users preferring one over the other. They have slightly different properties: for example Carnaroli is less likely to get overcooked than Vialone Nano, but the latter being smaller cooks faster and some say absorbs condiments better. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino (varietie Maratelli) and fino refer to the size and shape (narrowness) of the grains, not the quality.

Basic preparation
There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety cooked in a standard procedure.

Grains of arborio rice
The rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. Tasting helps to indicate when the risotto is ready, a total time of about 17 minutes from when the wine evaporated. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese are whipped in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat but this requires fine judgment as to how much liquid will be absorbed by the rice while it waits.

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all'onda ("wavy"). It should be served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.

by Ann-Marie
Makes 6 large servings
4-5 cups homemade or purchased chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
3-4 Tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined (about 14 shrimp)
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tbls. butter
1 tbls. olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preparation for Roasting Asparagus

NOTE: I use Herbamare, a sea salt mixed with herbs, available at health food stores or other fresh food markets, available in the seasoning section.

Preheat oven to 450˚. Prepare cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Wash and dry asparagus. Trim tough ends. Cut into small 1 inch pieces. Toss in olive oil to cover and toss with chopped fresh garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt. Spread evenly onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. It should be a single layer. Put cookie sheet in oven. These should be done in about 10-min. Periodically watch that the asparagus are not browning too quickly. They should be tender yet not over-cooked. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large sauté pan heat oil, butter and garlic. Make sure pan is very hot and put in shrimp. Be sure to season shrimp with salt and pepper. Don’t allow garlic to burn. Cook shrimp just until pink on one side and turn. Test the shrimp to be sure they are thoroughly cooked, only about 2 minutes per side. Just before removing from heat add lemon juice, cook for another minute or two on high heat to absorb some of the liquid. You can chop shrimp in medium size pieces or leave whole as desired. Make just before adding to risotto.


Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Add chopped rosemary. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute, coating thoroughly. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 17 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.) Be sure to taste the risotto periodically. There is a fine line when it is just about done so you must pay attention to it as it gets closer to being finished.

NOTE: If you want to prepare ahead stop at this point. Remove from heat. Add half the cheese.
Layer in a sheet pan and allow to cool completely. Store in covered container in refrigerator, up to 2-3 days. When you are ready to serve warm some broth and heat risotto, not over stirring.
Remove from heat and stir in Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper to taste. Add a little extra butter if desired. Stir in freshly cooked chopped shrimp. Stir in roasted asparagus. Add any other ingredients. Delicious fresh risotto ready to eat.

August 20, 2009

Creating Recipes and New Dishes

I really enjoy watching Food Network more than ever just to see what the stars are creating and what dishes they are dishing up. Everyone has different tastes, life experiences and backgrounds on how to create a "delicious". Everyone has a little different take on a dish. And everyone has a little different idea of "delicious." And each person has a different idea on how to use a specific ingredient. It's so interesting to observe when you watch from that perspective.
Last night the new season's Top Chef was interesting. One of the chef contestants decided to use seitan (a wheat gluten vegetable protein/meat substitute) in her stuffed pepper. The judges were not pleased. It's not that she didn't try to use a new ingredient, it was that the final taste was what mattered. She tried to use a product to be "different" to prove something, instead of simply incorporating her flavors in a dish in a way that made HER stand out. Instead she was the first one sent home, not a particularly high honor on Top Chef. The judges always want something that tastes good, that's number one, no matter what.
My culinary point of view definitely leans towards fresh gourmet ingredients, not always emphasizing the protein. If I never learn to cut a slab of beef properly I'll be ok. Does that make me lesser of a chef, perhaps I couldn't ever compete with the big guns because of that handiap. In saying that, I believe that I have to be true to my particular style of cooking, which doesn't come overnight. What I do recognize is that what matters when cooking for others is TASTE. Taste matters. Flavors and ingredients that people want MATTER. Yet, within those parameters creativity can flourish. I will not use an ingredient or create a dish because I think it will prove something to you. Instead, it's important to hear what you want and then I can can be the creative side to bring something to light that you envisioned and I executed. Sure it will have "my" visionary slant on it, but it still is lined up with what you want. Even if I use tofu it better taste good. If I use asparagus they better not be soggy or tasteless. My take on chocolate mousse will be just a little different than yours, that's a good thing!

So last night if the contestant was listening and watching prior shows she would have realized the significance of creating "tasty" dishes as one of the most important criteria. Just because a dish is fancier or more complicated or uses exotic ingredients does not necessarily win rave reviews from the judges. So in hindsight her own sense of trying to make a point had the judges making a point and sending her home. It was a tough one.

Food is a metaphor for life. Take anything you do in life and own it. Take something and make it your own. People pay attention and you stand out because your voice begins to be heard and people begin to listen to your song.

Always fresh. Always delicious. Always with aloha.

Your Life Story on a Plate

What would your life look like as a 4-course meal? Where have you come from, what inspired you to follow your dreams, what reminds you of the dream you created, and where are you going as you create the next phase of your life? Tonight's last episode of Top Chef Masters on Bravo was exceptional and really inspired me. The 3 remaining chefs had to cook a meal that told a story of their journeys as chefs and where they came from and where they are going.

Could you create a 4-course meal that depicts your life? It doesn't matter if you are a chef or not. What matters is that you could describe your journey in a way that comes alive and expresses yourself in your unique way. It could be expressed as a favorite dish at a restaurant, one your mother cooked, or one that you cook. What is your story?
My Life Story as a 4-Course Meal
1. What dish would you create that tells us where you came from and reminds you of childhood?

My first course would be a roasted tomato fennel soup with fresh basil, pecorino romano cheese and a garlic cheese toast. The memories I have growing up are of my father's love for food and my grandmother's passion for cooking Italian cuisine. I grew up in a household where food was important and was influence by an Italian grandmother who appreciated the raw ingredients that went into a meal. My Sicilian grandmother Zena taught me the importance of using fresh whole ingredients, caring about creating a meal and then lovingly sharing it with others. This roasted tomato soup is comfort food and has my favorite ingredients highlighted. Soup is comfort food and reminds me of childhood memories that make me feel warm fuzzies inside.

2. What dish would you create that gave you your inspiration to become a chef (or whatever inspired you to follow your dreams)?

My friends and acquaintances were my inspiration for following my passion for cooking and creating a career out of it. I have had many people over the years tell me what dishes they love and that they really enjoyed my cooking. I dismissed these compliments most of my life. I never believed cooking could be my way of expressing my creativity, I was always searching for something more important. My second course would consist of a series of appetizers, dishes I created from my passion for cooking and inspired by my love for food over the years. APPETIZER COURSE: Spanakopita (spinach pie with French Feta); Marinated Roasted Portabella Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese; Fresh Salmon Corn Cakes with sweet chili sauce or tarragon cream sauce.
3. What dish would you create that is a reminder of your first restaurant (first business, creation, etc...)?

My journey to create my company Maui Fresh Chef has certainly been influenced by the fresh ingredients of Hawaii and the Pacific and fusion cuisine. My third course would be fresh seared ahi with lemon pesto butter and mango pineapple salsa; rosemary risotto with buttery Big Island mushrooms; and roasted garlic asparagus. I could not have created my present life without my 7 years in Hawaii. This course represents my inspiration to build a future and be creative in the culinary field. This course reminds me of where I am now and inspires me to be even more creative in my day to day life.

4. What dish would represent your future, and where you are going?

I love dessert and a meal is not complete without dessert. My life is about layers. It's about colors. It's about flavors. It's about something that stands out and makes a statement. I would create a passion fruit cream trifle with a passionfruit chiffon cake layered with triple-berry sauce, mango sauce, and a pineapple sauce. Each layer would create a beautiful blend of colors and the dessert would be a showcase and an ending to a meal that people would remember. It reminds me of how life is about the journey, not the destination. Life is about creating a story and about creating the layers of life that make you stand out and what people are reminded of when they think of you.

So what is YOUR story as described on a plate? Can you remember where you came from? What inspires you? What brought you to where you are now? And where are you going? Can you describe it in colors, through food, through words? Your story is unique to you and it's important to remind yourself of your past so you remember your present and remind yourself that you have a journey yet to follow.

Bon appetit!