I have no idea how it all happened, but I wound up handing luau trays of chef-prepared tilapia to a bunch of kids.
A few weeks ago, I volunteered to help isisHawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to getting students excited as bout science and technology, with a food-based sustainability project.
The organization needed help recruiting chefs who would be willing and able to cook up farm-raised tilapia for kids and parents — along with locally grown produce from Mari’s Gardens in Mililani — to teach them how to cook and eat in a sustainable way.
That’s where I came in.
I called in a bunch of favors — to chefs Ed Kenney (@edstown) and Elmer Guzman (@pokestop) — who both agreed to put on demos. And Mel Sumida (@mels808) asked Chris Okuhara from Miso & Ale to help, too.
The event was called Tasty Tidbits and it was held at two elementary schools — Ala Wai Elementary and Lunalilo Elementary — with dozens of parents and students in attendance.
I gotta say, these chefs turned out gourmet dishes using hot plates and electric frying pans — using tilapia and fresh veggies.
Like Okuhara’s red Thai curry on rice noodles or Guzman’s smoke tilapia.
The reason for using tilapia: this is a fish often used in aquaponics, where combines aquaculture and hydroponics. The fish waste is used to fertilize the plants, which grow without soil.
“If it’s grown together, it goes together,” said Kenney at a cooking demo at Lunalilo Elementary.
It’s a sustainable product — and aqupaonics uses substantially less water than traditional soil-based agriculture.
Tilapia is one of those fish that make people in Hawaii shudder. A lot of us relate them to the big, black mutant fish found in the Ala Wai Canal.
But those are just that — mutants — and nothing like the fish we ate at these events.
Turns out, tilapia is the second-most important fish in aquaculture in the world, fourth in the United States. It’s farmed in more than 85 countries. And people around the world eat it.
And it’s no surprise.
It’s not a fishy fish; meaning, it’s easy to eat, especially for those who aren’t big fish fans. It’s got big bones that are easy to find and pull out. And the skin, when fried, is its own tasty treat.
These two events really showcased the tilapia and fresh local produce in a way that, I’m sure, inspired the families who turned out.
At least it did me.