Hawaiian cuisine is blazing its way into kitchens across America with exciting flavors and ingredients, but the most famous Hawaiian dish is the one that is most misunderstood. Join chef Ed Kenney as he explores poi and its main ingredient, kalo.
Ed Kenney, Host
Ed Kenney is a successful restaurateur who had no idea he wanted to be a chef – or a TV host.
After graduating from the University of Colorado and spending four years in commercial real estate, Kenney spent a year backpacking the globe, immersed in culture and contemplating life and self. It was on a street corner in Hanoi over a steaming bowl of pho that his revelation occurred: “Food is the unifying fabric of humanity, connecting us to the earth and each other.” From that point forward, a new path was forged.
Upon his return home to Hawaiʻi, Kenney attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and trained in Honolulu’s top restaurants. With a strong commitment to farm-to-table cooking, he opened his first restaurant, Town, in 2005 to rave reviews. Today, his four restaurants – Town, Kaimuki Superette, Mud Hen Water, and the newly opened Mahina & Sun’s – are lively gathering places guided by the mantra “local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.”
Kenney is committed to supporting local farms like MA‘O Organic Farms and showcasing local ingredients and traditional Hawaiian canoe crops (like kalo and ‘ulu) on his menus. For the past decade, he has been a beloved leader in the local food community and has helped propel Hawai‘i cuisine back into the national spotlight.
The James Beard Foundation has named Kenney a semi-finalist for Best Chef: West each year since 2013. He has cooked for First Lady Michelle Obama and been featured in top publications like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Conde Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure.
He sits on the board of directors for MA‘O Organic Farms, Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation, and Sustain Hawai‘i. He is also on the advisory board for Hogan Entrepreneurs, the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi‘olani Community College, and the Culinary Program at Leeward Community College.
Born and raised in Honolulu, he is the son of Broadway performer Ed Kenney and renowned hula dancer Beverly Noa – both famed Waikīkī entertainers of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
His crowning achievement, to date, is his family – wife, Spanky and kids, Celia and Duke.
Heather H. Giugni, Executive Director
Heather H. Giugni is a creative director who likes making connections – and Family Ingredients does just that – connecting food, people and places. An award-winning producer, Giugni is a gifted storyteller and enjoys building a narrative that can make a difference in people’s lives. She has produced and directed many documentaries including Daniel K. Inouye: An American Story, One Voice, and Under a Jarvis Moon. A strong advocate of history, education, and video curriculum, Giugni also founded ‘Ulu‘ulu, Hawai‘i’s official moving image archive.
Renea Veneri Stewart, Producer/Photography
Renea Veneri Stewart knows the ins and outs of production and works tirelessly to achieve the best possible product. Passionate about preserving Hawai‘i’s beauty and culture, Stewart documents life through film and stills, using the highest quality photographic tools. She’s skilled in live television broadcast, documentaries, commercials, and short films. An Emmy Award-winning producer, gifted project designer, talented published photographer, and director of photography for Family Ingredients, Stewart is always telling rich stories through the lens.
Dan Nakasone, Producer/Researcher
Wahiawa resident, sustainable food activist and part-time cowboy, Dan Nakasone spent most of his career in advertising as a creative director. He has worked on several projects for the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, including developing its “Hawai‘i Seal of Quality” and leading a task force to save Hawai‘i’s last four commercial egg farms. He also helped develop She Grows Food, a project moving Hawai‘i toward a more resilient and fair local food system.
Ty Sanga, Director/Writer
Ty Sanga is a prolific storyteller, talented director and man with a message. His short film, Stones, a graceful depiction of a Hawaiian legend, was the first entirely in the Hawaiian language to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Sanga quickly returned to Sundance as a Native Lab Fellow to develop his first feature film, After Mele. In addition to Family Ingredients, he has directed a number of TV shows and documentaries that explore the rich complexities of humanity and our continuing struggle to find happiness.