SUST-‘ĀINA-BILITY: FOSTERING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN FARMER, CHEF, AND THE LAND
By Christopher Kamalu Fujimoto
Aloha mai, my name is Christopher Fujimoto. I’m born and raised on the east side of O’ahu in Kane’ohe and have always had a love for food. Living in Hawai’i has taught me how diverse and incredible food and culture can be and it only felt natural when I felt the desire around 10 years old that I wanted to be a chef. While I didn’t pursue that dream officially until I was about 16 when I got my first job at a poke shop, I always kept that mission close and knew that I wanted to work with food for the rest of my life. Fast forward to the present (2021), I recently graduated from Kapi’olani Community College with an AS in Culinary arts, Pastry Arts, and an Advanced Professional Certificate in Culinary Arts and am currently pursuing a certification in Sustainability (ASC) at KCC as well.
I have come to truly develop a purpose and refine my life goals, centering them around being a chef who aims to not only cook ‘ono food, but cook food that can help to educate others on issues we face in our islands such as sustainability, food waste, and locally sourced nutritious options that can fight all too common health issues here in the islands like diabetes and heart disease. I aim to work more with our Polynesian canoe crops, indigenous produce and plant life, and local produce / producers as well. So often it has seemed like it was the farmers duty to help the chef and the restaurants when in reality, I think it is more the chef’s duty to help the farmer / producer. We have the opportunity to expand the “dining experience” and make it into something more than just a meal. We have the chance to teach consumers about the products they eat and show them that it’s more than just a one time meal but the culmination of many many hands and hard work that put that plate in front of you.
I wanted to shift gears and instead of shooting to work for restaurants after attaining my culinary degrees, I decided to go the other way and use my newly acquired skills to help the farmers that provide to the restaurants. Working with Sumida Farm was a perfect opportunity to really put my skills to the test and work to create and explore what to do with a classic Hawai’i product in ways beyond using it in the “traditional” dishes or styles we grew up with. They gave me a chance to allow my personal creativity to flow and use what I learned in school in new ways, giving me a chance to experiment with watercress in ways I have never done before, also helping to expand my general mentality on what can be done with ingredients. We don’t always have to use a green like watercress in salads, garnishes, or in stir frys and soups, they can be used in desserts, drinks, sauces, and so much more and that is what I am going to explore with Sumida Farm.
This is only the beginning to starting to achieve the goals I have set for myself and I know there is much more to be done. As Judge Hatch said in 1904, “The feeling in Hawai’i is almost universal that the foundation of her prosperity is the small farm,” and that is exactly why I aim to do just that, work with farms to protect the future of our ‘aina.
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