The Taste of Hawaii
Executive Chef James Babian puts the focus on local, farm-to-table foods at Four Seasons Resort Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu.
The local food movement poses special challenges when you’re on Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, and you need to feed hundreds of people a day. One of the island’s new generation of farm-to-table pioneers is James Babian, executive chef at Four Seasons Resort Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu. The Chicago native first came to Hawaii in 1998. “I was inspired by the increasing interest in Hawaiian regional cuisine,” he says, “and I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the chefs who were spearheading that approach.”
While basics such as vegetables and tropical fruits were available, the more interesting foods at farmers markets were not being produced on a scale that could support a resort. “I wanted to focus on locally grown ingredients that would be fresher, healthier and more flavourful,” Babian says, “and also more readily available, without the negative environmental impact of shipping.” He began convincing local farmers to expand their crops to supply key ingredients with the consistency and quantity required by a major resort. Currently he works with more than 160 farmers, ranchers, fishermen and aquaculturists.
On the menu are heirloom vegetables, Hamakua mushrooms, local goat cheese, ranch-raised beef and Kona coffee. Babian has found a supplier for sustainable seafood who raises lobster, shrimp and fish in icy water that’s pumped up from the ocean floor. And moi, the fish favoured by Hawaii’s ancient kings, is farmed on site at the Resort.
Today Babian sources 75 percent of food items locally, and that figure rises to 90 percent at the Resort’s signature restaurant, Pahu i‘a. He is now going beyond the regional approach to create cuisine specific to Hawaii Island.
Four by Four Seasons
Local treatments: The Spa’s Apothecary follows Hawaiian healing traditions by using native plants and minerals. More than 40 natural ingredients—from Hawaiian sea salt to crushed macadamia nuts—may be custom-blended to create unique personalised treatments.
Natural and eco-friendly: All the Resort’s guest rooms are newly refreshed in a light, beachy style. Also new is the Eco-Crescent at King’s Pond, with rooms that let you cut your carbon impact with measures such as eliminating bottled water. It’s an easy, eco-friendly choice.
Adult swim: Among the Resort’s seven pool experiences is the new Palm Grove, which many are calling the ultimate pool for adults. Facing the ocean and blissfully quiet, the setting features hammocks, daybeds and a swim-up bar with signature shave-ice cocktails.
High-tech tour: A new virtual tour helps you get familiar with the plant life, art and historical sites at Hualālai. Featuring audio and images, the Huaka‘i tour is free to download from iTunes, or you may simply borrow an iPod Touch from the Concierge desk.