Kunoa Cattle Company: Leading the Local Food Industry Moo’vement

kunoa-cattle

A cowboy hat shades Bobby Farias’ eyes and his square-toed boots make imprints as he walks across the dirt at a Kunoa Cattle Co. ranch on Kaua‘i. He jumps in his truck and drives toward a herd of cattle grazing in what could arguably be the most beautiful location in Lihu‘e surrounded by jade mountains and endless fields. Cattle peer at him with innate curiosity, albeit a touch of caution, as he climbs out of the vehicle and calls to them. They steadily make their way closer, their big, brown eyes peering at him with interest.

Farias is a third-generation paniolo (cowboy), champion team roper and co-founder of the Kunoa Cattle Co., which includes more than 4,000 acres of land on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu with some 2,000 head of cattle. While he hung up his cowboy hat for about two decades to follow a different career path as a property manager, he got roped back into his family’s ranching legacy during the early 2000s after acquiring land in Kapa‘a.

Now, the operation he co-founded with CEO Jack Beuttell, which has since been named Kunoa Cattle Co., is reaching phenomenal local foodindustry heights. One reason is because Farias understood that the process of raising cattle required feedback from customers. He realized that information wasn’t trickling back to him or other ranchers from buyers and he was determined to close that gap. He recognized that the “producer” or rancher went through three years of work raising cattle to a “finished market animal” but never knew what the final pay-back would be.

 

kunoa-cattle1
Jack Beuttell (left) and Bobby Farias are the co-founders of Kunoa Cattle Co.

“He or she takes all the risks, and they have no idea what the outcome’s going to be,” Farias says. “We decided that if we’re going to stay in ranching, we’ve got to be part of the end product so that we can be part of the decision-making. We are the sellers, we have to go find the buyers.”

So, Farias began pounding the pavement becoming his own broker. A decade later and Kunoa Cattle Co. is now distributing its meat to several O‘ahu restaurants, including d.k. Steak House and Mahina & Sun’s in Waikiki.

He helps make this possible by aggregating large quantities of calves from other ranchers, who may not be able to take them all the way to finish due to a number of factors like drought. He hosts them so they can be finished in Hawai‘i or until they are ready to continue to the Mainland. Kunoa Cattle Co. currently purchases cattle from about three dozen ranchers statewide.

 

kunoa-cattle2
The processing facility in Kapolei on O‘ahu.

“Kunoa is an evolution of the ranching business, in that Kunoa brings the aggregator part to the table,” says Beuttell. “A lot of Hawai‘i ranchers can just concentrate on ranching and call Kunoa to continue them through the business chain so there is a positive economic impact for them.”

Another way Kunoa Cattle Co. has carried on Farias’ mission to help ranchers stay afloat is by providing processing services at the only USDA-inspected livestock harvest facility on O‘ahu, which the business purchased in 2016. The facility, located in Kapolei, processes more than 100 animals per month, but is capable of handling about 12,000 cattle and 48,000 hogs annually. Achieving this would help create an all-around more sustainable food industry, as Hawai‘i falls severely short in meat-processing infrastructure.

“We need five more Kunoas,” says Farias.

Kunoa Cattle Co. is working with lawmakers and ranchers statewide to develop a supply chain for local meats so that fewer animals need to be sent to the Mainland for processing. Currently, tens of thousands of calves are shipped to California or Texas each year, where they mature and are harvested and sent back— even though there’s no way of knowing for certain if the meat that’s returned is from the same animals. But even if all of Hawai‘i’s cattle stayed in the state until maturity and were processed locally, it would only account for a small percentage of the total meat consumption in the Islands. With more than a million fallow acres in the state, Farias says there’s plenty of room for alternative possibilities, and Kunoa Cattle Co. wants to pick up those reins.

 

kunoa-cattle3
Kunoa Cattle Co. distributes its products to several restaurants on O‘ahu.

“If all the ranchers could grow by just 5 percent each year, then we maybe could really take a big bite out of that red protein food security in Hawai‘i,” says Farias.

Moreover, cattle that get to live stress-free days grazing on grass in mild weather conditions in Hawai‘i provide a healthier final product. And a grass-fed diet also allows for a robust beef flavor profile that is higher in omega-three fats, has higher beta carotene as well as vitamins B and E.

“… it’s like the experience of terroir (meaning soil/earth) in wine, with pasture-raised beef, the minerality of the volcanic soil and the traits of the grasses carry through to the beef,” says Beuttell. “These cattle spend their entire lives in Hawai‘i, with no added hormones or antibiotics.”

It’s easy to tell that Farias and Beuttell are passionate about keeping food on the Islands. And if they continue on their current path, their dreams of keeping beef in Hawai‘i throughout the entire process might just come true.

“This is all about building more food sustainability,” says Farias.

Visit kunoacattle.com for more information.

*PHOTOS BY PATRICK WILK

Tasty Meets Trendy at MAHINA & SUN’S

tasty-trendy

CONTEMPORARY COLORS mix with subtle geometric patterns to adorn what could arguably be one of Waikiki’s most on-trend dining establishments. Tucked inside the Millennial-inspired Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club on Lewers Street, visitors and kama‘aina alike have been flocking to the fashionable Mahina & Sun’s since it opened in 2016. It’s hard to beat the restaurant’s relaxing beachy, poolside atmosphere with walls decorated by a number of modern local artists. Not to mention nightly activities and live music from some of Hawai‘i’s most cherished musicians, including Na Hoku Hanohano award-winners. But what’s really got people raving are the restaurant’s unbeatable flavors in every one of the dishes and cocktails.

 

Mahina’s Family Feast features a whole deep-sea snapper that comes with a variety of other sumptuous dishes to share.
Mahina’s Family Feast features a whole deep-sea snapper that comes with a variety of other sumptuous dishes to share.

 

The food, which is described as “elevated home cooking,” is based on the Hawaiian cultural “sense of place.” In other words, the menu is filled with ingredients centered around Hawai‘i’s seasonal bounty that journey straight from farms across the Islands onto every plate. Moreover, the culinary team at Mahina & Sun’s represents ethnicities from around the world and each cultural background has an influence in the recipes. This meld of culinary talent is in alignment with a mom-and-pop sense of nostalgia the owner, celebrated chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, wanted to evoke in guests.

 

tasty-trendy2

 

It helps that Executive Chef Erik Leong is at the kitchen’s helm. Born and raised on O‘ahu, he knows just what it takes to create comfort food with memorable mixes of cultural seasonings that once flourished in small businesses on the Islands. Prior to joining Mahina & Sun’s, he worked at Kenney’s Town Restaurant for almost a decade and moved up the ranks from a night cook to sous chef. His passion for food struck at an early age. After graduating from Kapi‘olani Community College with a degree in culinary arts, Leong worked for Sodexo, a sustainable dining program for students at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Try a poke bowl (raw fish salad) or any number of other freshly made and locally sourced dishes at Mahina & Sun’s.
Try a poke bowl (raw fish salad) or any number of other freshly made and locally sourced dishes at Mahina & Sun’s.

 

Now he has formed the ultimate dream team with Kenney at Mahina & Sun’s to create breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, as well as a special brunch menu on Sundays. Locally sourced ingredients are a prerequisite for every dish, including one of the most popular, called Mahina’s Family Feast. The meal is made for several people to enjoy, and features an “ocean-friendly” mochiko fried or steamed whole deep-sea snapper that comes with exquisite homemade dipping sauces, such as green chutney.

The restaurant goes above and beyond with this dish, not only by providing unparalleled, robust flavors in the main fish course, but in each of the sides that accompany it. From buttered ‘ulu (breadfruit) with chili-pepper-water aioli to Kualoa Ranch oysters, there’s something everyone can savor in this meal. Moreover, the feast’s grand finale is the Salted Mac Nut Pavlova (Australian for meringue-a sensationally sweet dessert that comes with local, seasonal fruit such as papaya and pineapple, a lemon-‘olena (Hawaiian turmeric) curd and vanilla cream.

 

The atmosphere at this trendy Waikiki restaurant is casual yet sophisticated. The poolside restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers menu items made with the finest ingredients, such as the Surfjack Breakfast.
The atmosphere at this trendy Waikiki restaurant is casual yet sophisticated. The poolside restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers menu items made with the finest ingredients, such as the Surfjack Breakfast.

 

Cocktails are equally as satisfying as the edibles at Mahina & Sun’s, including simple libations decorated with fresh herbs served during happy hour, as well as drinks with more gusto presented during Sunday brunch, such as the Bella Matina made with Prairie vodka, espresso, lemon and vanilla gelato.

Only the finest ingredients, many of which are gathered from local farmers and ranchers, are used at Mahina & Sun’s, where the atmosphere is avant-garde and the food evokes the flavors and feel of yesteryear.

“My ultimate goal is and has been to cook great food, and from my past that feeds my present that makes me hungry for the future,” says Leong.

Visit mahinaandsuns.com for more information.

Not Ordering Beef is a Missed Steak

not-ordering-beef

If you’re craving a juicy, hearty piece of meat to sink your canines into then look no further than Waikiki. Some of the freshest and most flavorful beef dishes are created in this pristine South Shore location. Order a slab of prime rib, a sizzling fillet, or any of another number of beef-centric dishes and you’ll have the bonus of fantastic beachside settings to indulge every single one of your senses.

 


 

FRESCO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
FILETTO DI MANZO

Made with 8 ounces of seared Island beef tenderloin, this dish is topped with gorgonzola fondue that packs a mighty powerful palate-pleasing punch. Vibrant sautéed veggies accompany this hearty meal, as well as fine, feathery mashed potatoes garnished with kukui nuts that will fill your belly and your soul. Finally, a marsala wine sauce adds a subtle essence to this Italian and Hawaiian fusion restaurant’s signature dish.


d.k STEAK HOUSE
KAUA‘I RED DIRT-RUBBED LOCAL GRASS-FED BEEF

Straight from the ranch to your plate, you can’t get a fresher slice of meat. Besides being as sustainable as it gets, generated directly from Hawai‘i ranchers, its tenderness and taste exceed expectations. The Kaua‘i red dirt salt-rubbed steak sits perfectly on a bed of fluffy, roasted garlic-chive fondue and a red wine demi-glace. Flawlessly crisp Brussel’s sprouts and tasty cremini mushroom ragout add zest to this dish and a dollop of tarragon herb butter with a handful of Hamakua ali‘i mushrooms provide a combination of ingredients that are simply divine.


 

CINNAMON’S AT THE ILIKAI
cinnamons-steak
BONELESS KALBI SHORT RIBS

Known for presenting phenomenal local classics, this famed O‘ahu eatery gives you a chance to try beef crafted with cultural flair. This Korean specialty, for example, is created from a traditional family recipe and allows diners the opportunity to try the kind of food kama‘aina (Hawai‘i residents) grow up with. The rich, luscious meat
is served with a subtly sweet sauce and two sides of your choice, such as local favorites white rice and macaroni salad. Rather than a typical grab-and-go plate lunch, this is its elegant sister, with the added perks of friendly service and salty ocean air.


BALI STEAK AND SEAFOOD
bali-steakUSDA PRIME ALLEN BROTHERS STEAK

Besides being blown away by the generous serving of meat this dish has to offer, ordering this Tomahawk ribeye makes for a pleasurable dining experience. Created with artistic mastery, this grain-fed, pasture-raised “superior”-bred dry-aged ribeye has unparalleled tenderness. Furthermore, it’s adorned with garlic herb butter to make the meat even more succulent and paired with a delecta-ble dipping sauce, as well as garlic crostini and vegetables, such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes. The dish is for two and there’s more than enough to leave everyone satisfied.


MIYAKO
miyako-steakWAGYU BEEF SUKIYAKI

Made at your table with a hot pot, the sensuous smell of this dish alone will cause your mouth to water with anticipation. Plenty of extras are thrown in with the 4-ounce serving of wagyu or Japanese beef cattle, including tofu, bamboo, Chinese cabbage and rice noodles. What’s more, you’ll have an epic view of Waikiki Beach while you savor the flavors of this comforting soup that not only can cure ailments but will lift your taste buds’ spirits.