Side Dish by Gossip Gourmet

If she were queen, the winners would be...

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chef awardsHooray! Congrats to our 40 ‘Aipono Award-winning restaurants! That’s right, 4-0. Attend, those of you who dine in night after night, month after month; there’s a veritable feast of restaurants in 25 categories awaiting you!

Now, you all know how the awards work (since I trust each and every one of you filled out a ballot this year), but you might not be privy to how the Chef of the Year is chosen. Voting is open only to professionals, those medium-rare geniuses employed by Maui’s culinary industry. Chef-voters complete a confidential online survey that includes a box in which they can express themselves, blow off a little steam, and expound on the award system. One voter observed that the Chef of the Year presents “a significant challenge both to the winner, to live up to it year after year, and to those who have not yet won, to strive for the degree of quality in food, service, restaurant presentation, etc.” Yes, we too feel the pressure to live up to our last soufflé.

Another chef-voter says, “I feel that working for chefs who have won, I am going in the right direction to becoming a great chef.” Exactly. Baby steps towards greatness, I say! Speaking of baby steps . . . There’s something slightly sinister about the fact that both winners for Best Place to Dine with Kids prominently feature sharp utensils: Outback Steakhouse serves two-inch-wide bush knives with its meat, and Kobe Steakhouse’s teppanyaki chefs juggle blades like samurai. Hmmm. . . what does it mean?

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for—Gossip Gourmet’s Annual Handpicked Awards! (Winners will receive a statuette in the likeness of James Beard, who said, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”)

Best Comedy Performance: The irreverent, quick-witted waiters at A Saigon Café. Even shy guests fall into stitches at their peculiar brand of humor. The more the tables need rearranging to accommodate large parties, the funnier it gets.

Best Wildlife Show: The swans at Son’z. One evening, the full-grown male swan stepped across the threshold of the pond into the dining room proper. Waddling amidst surprised waiters, Mr. Swan entertained the heck out of two Japanese guests, who took souvenir photos with the rebel fowl. Meanwhile, Mrs. Swan swam furiously back and forth, sending her better half some serious stink eye. We wish the feathered pair lots of golden eggs in the future. (How guiltily we swallowed our delicately seared foie gras that evening!)

Best Food Commentary: “The Five Faces of Food,” a Dickensian essay hanging above the bar at Flatbread Company. The spirit of Hunger whispers ghoulishly, “I am the porridge served in Chad and Somalia. . . . I am the line between life and death”; whereas Nurture claims, “From food made and shared like this flows great health and happiness.” Now that’s food for thought.

By the way, don’t miss the chance to spit alongside seven of the nation’s 79 master sommeliers at this year’s Kapalua Wine and Food Festival from Thursday, June 28, through Sunday, July 1. Sure sell-out events include Celebrity Chef Michael Mina’s private cooking classes and the ever-popular cheese debates (though we have our doubts about “Hangover Helper,” a midmorning Bloody Mary demo). For details, visit www.kapalua.com/recreation/events/kwff/schedule.php.

Bon appetit and may the fork be with you!

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