Restoring a Legacy

Chef Joaquin “Jake” Belmonte

I’m excited to be involved in The Field & The Harvest on Saturday, August 19, 6:00 pm at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College, Pā‘ina Food Court and Main Dining Room. The Field & The Harvest is the fundraiser dinner for the Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt organization, whose purpose is to restore the Bahay Kubo at Kepaniwai Heritage Park in historic ‘Īao Valley. Over the years, the Bahay Kubo was vandalized and although many have tried to restore and renovate it, only recently has an organization been created whose prime purpose is to take care of the Bahay Kubo. Renovation efforts started in 2015 but the September 13, 2016 storm put all renovations on hold. The Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation is ready to resume the restoration efforts but of course, funds are needed.

Pioneers of the Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation. Left to right: Rick Nava, Elmer Tolentino, Tante Urban, Vic Campos, Burt Santiago. Not shown: Zaldy Ugalino.

Thanks to the support of Chancellor Lui Hokoana, along with 13 of Maui’s finest chefs such as Chef Jojo Vasquez, ‘Aipono Chef of the Year 2017; Chef Jeff Scheer of the Mill House; Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco of Andaz Wailea; Executive Chef Lyndon Honda of Sheraton Kā‘anapali; Madame Donut of Donut Dynamite; and Chef Kyle Kawakami of Maui Fresh Streatery, to name a few, the Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation will be able to present an awesome fund raising dinner at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College. I’m grateful that my fellow Chefs were inspired to action by my Facebook video post, calling attention to the need to generate awareness and support. With so much support from our friends and family, the team wanted to do something to help and they wanted to do it immediately before another heavy storm occurs.

Artistic work of the Bahay Kubo at Kepaniwai Cultural Heritage Gardens was skillfully rendered by local artist, Phil Sabado.

We realized we needed to pull together as a community, because if it happened elsewhere, we would do it again, just like how we pulled together for Project Kōkua for Hawai‘i island in 2014, Kōkua for the Philippines in 2013, and Kōkua for Japan in 2011. This time around, it is in our own backyard. We will need all the help we can get to restore and maintain the Kepaniwai Cultural Heritage Garden at ‘Īao, which is a unique place. It is the only place in Maui that showcases the villages of the different cultures that migrated here during the beginning of a by-gone era, the plantation era. We are connected through our roots, our food, and most especially our aloha. The desire to want to help each other in an unfortunate situation like this is when we realized we still have the values we were taught growing up, and in return, we do what needs to be done, as it is the right thing to do.

Volunteers donate their time and effort to beautify and restore the Bahay Kubo legacy, with their Bayanihan spirit—“the work of many hands lighten the load.”

With over a dozen chefs, what can possibly happen through these words: pā‘ina, which means gathering in Hawaiian, ka‘ana meaning to share, and kain na, which means Let’s eat in Filipino. The Field & The Harvest will give guests a delicious sampling of dishes by top chefs and restaurants from across the island of Maui. Just a few of the menu items include:

  • Seared Diver Scallop, Parmesan Risotto, Braised Pork Belly, Adobo Sauce, and Gremolata
  • Shredded Lamb Shank Crêpe “Kaldereta Style”
  • Pandan Coco Rice Donut with Fresh Pandan-Coconut Glaze, Toasted Rice Glaze, and Puffed Rice
  • Matcha Green Tea Unagi Foie Pâté on Chicken Skin Cracker, and Persian Barberries
  • … and much more—all prepared with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.

Participating restaurants and sponsors include: Tin Roof by Sheldon Simeon, Chris Schobel of Fat Daddy’s, James Simpliciano of Simpli-Fresh, Joey Macadangdang of Joey’s Kitchen, Humble Market Kitchin by Roy Yamaguchi, Badua’s Maui Crêpes & Grill, Nick’s Fishmarket, HFM Foodservice, VIP Foodservice, Envisions Entertainment, Family and Friends of Agriculture, Sabado Studio, Tante’s Restaurant, MSI Maui, McDonald’s, Magsingal Association of Maui, Kula Produce, and more.

The evening also features entertainment and a silent auction featuring a a bounty of gift certificates to favorite Maui restaurants, specialty items, and gifts.
As part of the evening’s event, ten culinary scholarships will be awarded to ten select students of the program. Also, four ‘Aipono Chefs Of The Year together with their protégés—three alumni, and one graduating student will be recognized by Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation.

We hope to raise more than $25,000. If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet ($75 per person), I hope it’s not too late, because we are projecting an oversold event! Try purchasing tickets via EventBrite and search for the Celebrating the Field and the Harvest event on the August 19 calendar or you may want to try and purchase tickets at Tante’s Restaurant in Kahului or the Sabado Art Studio in Wailuku.

I hope to see you there; and of course, if you want to make a tax deductible donation, please send your check payable to “Bahay Kubo Heritage Foundation” and mail it to me at P.O. Box 6159, Kahului, HI 96733 or contact me at or (808) 283-6358 and I will gladly pick it up!

Chef Joaquin ‘Jake’ Belmonte, Jr. is a Culinary Lecturer at the UH Maui College, Culinary Arts Program. Belmonte was graduated from Maui High School and worked extensively in the Food & Beverage operation in the hotel industry. He is currently the Chef Representative of the Blue Zones Project – Central Maui Restaurants & Grocery Stores, a Facilitator of Hawai‘i National Great Teachers Seminar; and an active member of the American Culinary Federation. Belmonte was recognized by the Hawai‘i Hospitality Magazine as one of the 2008 Top 10 Rising Chefs of Hawai‘i under 40 and was the 2009 Chef Representative of the Hawai‘i Visitor and Convention Bureau’s West Coast Marketing Campaign. Happily married with two children, Belmonte is also a Small Business Owner and Operator of Maui Lifestyle Healthy Choice, a premier healthy vending company.