Maui Food and Dining

Maui Onion Festival Promises Halitosis and Fun

May 1, 2013, 4:12 PM HST
* Updated May 1, 4:57 PM
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Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef who has spontaneously developed a fear of onion-based cocktails.

By Vanessa Wolf

Marc Urquidi's Maui onion chicken liver pate with Maui onion macaroons. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Marc Urquidi’s Maui onion chicken liver pate with Maui onion macaroons. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Are you into onions?

Like REALLY into onions?

Then hold onto your Altoids, because this Saturday at Whalers’ Village in Lahaina is the 24th Annual Maui Onion Festival.


Things kick into gear at 9:45 a.m. on the Center Stage and will be at full throttle by 10 a.m. with a chef demonstration from Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill and SALT in Honolulu.


10:30 a.m. brings the first of three judged events with the Ka’anapali Restaurant Recipe Contest.

Two weeks ago, eight chefs competed to see who would move on to the formal competition at the festival.

The winners in order included Marc Urquidi of Roy’s Kaanapali with his Maui onion chicken liver pate with Maui onion macaroons, followed by Greg Grohowski of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and his “Maui Onion Menage a trois” featuring lavender-seasoned tenderloin. Wesley Holder of “Pulehu, an Italian Grill” (Yes, that’s the name of the restaurant -Ed) will be at the main event thanks to his Maui onion tart with foie gras mousse and port wine gelee. Lastly, Jennifer Evetushick of Tropica made the cut with her Maui Onion Gnocchi.

Greg Grohowski's “Maui Onion Menage a trois” featuring lavender-seasoned tenderloin. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Greg Grohowski’s “Maui Onion Menage a trois” featuring lavender-seasoned tenderloin. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.


This coming Saturday, the ruling champion will be crowned at high noon.

While the judges (Maui Now included) debate and eat stuff made out of onions, you can catch Chris Kulis of Capische? presenting a demonstration at 10:45 a.m. Four additional demonstrations by the other chefs competing in the recipe contest follow at 11:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 1 and 1:45 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m. there will a mixed drink contest which suddenly has this judge somewhat terrified that she will have to sample cocktails made out of onions. Maui onions are lovely things but: no.

(A solemn missive to anyone who is hoping to win that should the drinks actually involve onions: think Gibson Martini or bring a spittoon.)

Perhaps you are of the ilk that chows down on a raw onions like they’re apples just because you can.

Wesley Holder's Maui onion tart with foie gras mousse and port wine gelee. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Wesley Holder’s Maui onion tart with foie gras mousse and port wine gelee. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

If so, you might be excited to learn your unique talent doesn’t just gross out your friends and scare away would-be romantic interests. This Saturday you – and your offspring should there be any who possess the same penchant – can enter to win an onion-eating contest at the festival. Bad-breath-getting-time starts at 3:30 p.m. for the kids and 4 p.m. for adults.

At 4:30 p.m., sunburned and tipsy on cocktails that hopefully weren’t made out of onions, the judging panel will commence with the final critiqued event, the Recipe Contest.

This year’s celebrity cheftestants hail from Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. The illustrious list includes Chris Kulis of Capische?, James McDonald of I’o, Jojo Vasquez from Plantation House, Kevin Hanney of SALT and 12th Avenue Grill, Nick Mastrascusa of Ulu Ocean Grill at the Four Seasons Hualalai, and Maui’s own “Hawaiian Care Bear” Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle.

Jennifer Evetushick's Maui Onion Gnocchi. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Jennifer Evetushick’s Maui Onion Gnocchi. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

After the winner is named, the final event on the Center Stage will be a Tahitian show starting at 6 p.m.

There will be music and dancing on the Beach Stage throughout the day beginning at 10 a.m. with a hula show and wrapping up with the JD ‘On the Rocks’ Band from 7 to 9 p.m.

Attendees can also anticipate food booths, games, and a beer garden. The event is free to the public and parking is free as well.

Speaking of parking, if you’ve ever faced a double-digit bill – even after validation – while exiting Whaler’s Village, then you might be excited to hear there will also be a Facebook photo contest where you can win a year of free parking and a $200 gift card. All you have to do is upload a photo of your favorite moment at the festival to their fan page before May 11.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(

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