Root fall vegetables (carrots, turnips, radish and winter squash) from Otsuji and MA'O Farms, prepared and plated by Prima, on earthenware by artist Steve Martin, was among the dishes served at the 3@the Table event at Fishcake.
How much more beautiful would your table and meal be if you were able to eat off works of art? That was the question proposed by architect Wendy Tsuji, the woman behind "3@the Table," which aims to bring together artist, farmer and chef. It's her hope that more restaurants, especially those in Waikiki, will pick up on the idea to enhance the visitor dining experience and promote more of Hawaii's talent.
We already know what can happen when farmers and chefs collaborate, and at an introductory event that took place Oct. 18 at Fishcake, an art and furnishings gallery, chef Peter Merriman said 3@the Table reminds him of the start of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement that began more than two decades ago, in which he was also involved.
Those who came of dining age after that time probably don't remember a time when chefs were held hostage to the handful of ingredients farmers knew how to grow. It took a group of about a dozen chefs to take their requests to farmers, suggesting produce they would like to introduce to their tables, which led to the explosion of flavors we have today.
He said that chefs believed people would pay more for locally sourced products, not just because they want to help support farmers, but also because the ingredients taste better, and people just may want to see art at the table because a beautiful visual aesthetic can also enhance a meal.
This is something already seen at the Japanese table, most strongly at Nanzan Giro Giro on Piikoi Street, a collaboration between a restaurant company and the artist Nanzan, who creates all the earthenware that provides the backdrop for the restaurant's seasonal and nature-inspired kaiseki. The artist is rooted in the way of tea, rituals encompassing all of tea's history, philosophy and implements. The restaurant also houses a mini ceramic museum.
If diners are to become more mindful of what they are eating, this is one path. It is easy to get caught up in the flavors, intensity and beauty of a meal in a place like Nanzan Giro Giro, which encourages focus.
Honestly, at Fishcake, where the mood was celebratory, such focus was in short supply. It was hard to get people to stop socializing for a while and listen to what Tsuji was saying.
Toward that end, 3@the Table brought together three teams, each with a potter, a chef and a farmer, for a collaboration that mixes food with art. Daven Hee was paired with MA‘O Organic Farms and chef Ed Kenney of town, while ceramist Steve Martin teamed with Otsuji Farms and Prima. Big Island artist Clayton Amemiya teamed with Hirabara Farms and chef Peter Merriman. Also featured was work by artists Jered Nelson, Trent Burkett and Scott Parady.
Then the beauty of dishes prepared that night, and the scent of pork cooked up by Ed Kenney, encased in clay by Hee, was too irresistible to focus on the plates and platters beneath them. It's only when I got home and looked at the pictures I'd taken that I experienced that aha! moment.
Funds raised from ticket sales and ceramic sales will benefit Hawaii Potters' Guild's youth ceramics program at Palama Settlement, to help bring the concept to a new generation and the community.
Fishcake is at 307c Kamani St. Call 808.593.1231.
Fish on toast from Prima.