Posted on December 1, 2010 by Joan

Of all the ideas in Alan Wong’s sweeping new cookbook, the quote above stands out to us. We can attest: Alan practices what he preaches — and we’re grateful he’s a friend to Hawaiian agriculture.

Flip through the book, and you’ll learn how Kona Cold Lobsters pampers its products before sending them to Alan. Or you’ll read about the time he took his staff to Richard Ha’s tomato field, so they could better appreciate the hard work of farming.

We were honored to see four pages in “The Blue Tomato” devoted to Kaʻu coffee and beef. Alan traces the history of Kaʻu, from the rise and fall of the sugar plantation to the emergence of small family farms producing award-winning coffees.

It’s clear he was charmed by our beautiful, vast region; several Ka’u coffees appear on his menu. And Alan has featured Kaʻu coffees, including our Classic Dark Roast, in one of his Farmer Series dinners.

Lorie remembers their first meeting in June 2007. They’d planned a barbecue with friends at our farm. She baked a lemon chiffon cake, packed it in her truck, and drove off to meet him.

But at the farm, the clouds were settling on the trees, threatening to bring rain. So they shortened the tour and decamped to her house.

As Alan chatted with others on the lanai, Lorie and Brenda made salad in the kitchen. Lorie is a very good cook, but that afternoon, the thought of preparing food for a chef intimidated her.

“Brenda,” she said, “how do you cut a tomato?”

“Hell if I know!” said Brenda, who was just as nervous.

“Oh my God,” Lorie said. “Suddenly we don’t know how to cut tomatoes!”

They shouldn’t have worried. Alan was very down to earth, entertaining the group with tales of picking pineapple as a teenager in Wahiawa. Their simple meal of salad with Kuahiwi Ranch beef was just fine. And Alan himself brewed Lorie’s coffee in a French press.

The only problem? After everyone left, Lorie found the chiffon cake in her truck. She’d just served lunch to one of Hawaii’s top chefs, and she completely forgot the dessert!

Since then, Lorie has seen Alan a few times. She hugged him at the 2009 Kaʻu Coffee Festival, and he joked with her at a Modern Luxury Hawaiʻi photo shoot.

But that first meeting remains her favorite. So she was delighted to see a photo of that afternoon in “The Blue Tomato.” The paragraph above it was particularly fitting:

A picture of Alan Wong and Lorie Obra in "The Blue Tomato"

April 2012 update: “The Blue Tomato” won the prestigious IACP Chefs and Restaurants Cookbook Award! Alan graciously gave thanks and recognized Hawaii’s farmers here.

We couldn’t be happier for Alan and his whole team. Congratulations!