Originally published in the Taste Our Love for the Land cookbook, published 2015.

Sustainability means keeping our biological systems diverse and productive. When we discuss sustainability in Hawaii’s food communities—be it chefs, farmers, fishermen, fisherwomen, ranchers, teachers, public relations or marketing agencies, guests in restaurants or anyone in between—what we’re really talking about are relationships.

To me it all comes down to the quality, consistency and authenticity of our collective product—and how people interact with each other to make it happen. That includes the vibrancy of our produce, the freshness of our fish, the juiciness of our meats, the safety of our food and the innovation of our chefs. It’s these relationships that allow Hawaii’s culinary culture to stay diverse, productive and, we hope, everlasting.

Chef Bloc Maui is a culinary program that highlights cooperation and collaboration, not competition.

Left to right: Farmer Dave Fitch and Maui chefs Jeff Scheer, Isaac Bancaco and Sheldon Simeon join forces at Malama Farm in Haiku. Photos: courtesy of Isaac Bancaco/Taste Our Love for the Land,” 2015

In November 2014 we rolled out Chef Bloc Maui, a culinary program held at the Andaz Wailea Resort that honors and highlights cooperation and collaboration, not competition. Once a month, a dozen guests gather around a big marble table for a special dinner prepared by three different chefs working with the same ingredient. At the inaugural event, for example, chefs Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering and Sheldon Simeon of Migrant Maui joined me in preparing Muscovy duck harvested at Mālama Farm in Ha‘ikū, Maui.

My gut feeling is this: If we can collectively come together, transparently and with our egos left at the door, united in the name of moving Hawai‘i’s culinary culture forward, not only will our Islands’ food be better overall, but farmers will grow better and grow more, ranchers will have better efficiency in their practice, promotional agencies will have more to market, guests will have more dining options and, in turn, our food industry will be sustainable.

Kona Lobster with Black Pepper Butter and Mango Curd

Serves 4 (or 8 pupu style)  |  By Isaac Bancaco

Kona Lobster with Black Pepper Butter and Mango Curd

Serves 4 (or 8 pupu style)  |  By Isaac Bancaco

4 whole Kona lobster tails
3 ounces ali‘i (king oyster or eryngii) mushrooms, thinly sliced on the bias
4 ounces Cured Pork Belly (recipe follows)
16 tablespoons Kombu Stock (recipe follows)
16 tablespoons Black Pepper Butter (recipe follows)
2 ounces Mango Curd (recipe follows)
Fresh mango, diced, for garnish

Divide lobster tails by cutting between their natural segments. Swirl a little bit of oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. Add mushrooms, pork belly and lobster segments. Sauté until mushrooms are soft, lobster begins turning red and pork belly is semi-rendered. Deglaze with Kombu Stock and reduce by half. Add 2 tablespoons of Black Pepper Butter and whisk to emulsify. Toss lobster in pan to ensure each piece is coated with sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from the heat.

To serve, place lobster pieces on a large plate, pour sauce, pork belly and mushrooms over the top. Garnish with Mango Curd and fresh mango.

Cured Pork Belly
1 pound pork belly
1 cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
4 sprigs thyme (leaves removed)

Combine all ingredients, except for pork belly, and mix well. Heavily coat the pork belly with the dry brine mixture, and let sit for 12 to 18 hours in the refrigerator. Once pork is cured, rinse excess brine off, and pat dry. Place in a convection oven at 300°F for 1½ to 2 hours until semi-tender. Cool on a rack and refrigerate. Once chilled through, chop into medium dice.

Mango Curd
8 tablespoons mango puree
4 egg yolks
¼ cup water
8 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
2 lemons, juice only

In a double broiler, combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously until a smooth consistency is reached. The eggs should cook and no longer have a loose texture.

Kombu Stock
1 gallon water
4 cups mirepoix*
2 pieces kombu (dried kelp), 6 inches by 8 inches each
3 sprigs thyme

*2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery, roughly chopped

Bring all ingredients to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes, let cool and strain.

Black Pepper Butter
3 pounds butter, tempered
¾ cup minced garlic
¾ cup minced shallot
½ cup freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fish sauce
1½ cups white wine
½ cup minced chives
½ cup minced parsley
6 lemons, zested

In a sauté pan, sauté garlic and shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter. (Store leftover butter in refrigerator for future use.) Add in black pepper and continue sautéing until toasted. Deglaze with white wine and fish sauce. Reduce by half. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer, cream the butter with chives, parsley and lemon zest. Add in the cooled black pepper mixture until evenly incorporated.