Food Fight

©Steve Czerniak

Chefs compete in a “Throwdown” during Mangoes at the Moana

Will it be a repeat for Michelle Karr-Ueoka? Or will Lee Anne Wong regain her “Queen of Mangoes” title? Victory for either, though, won’t come easy, as a field of talented chefs will again compete in the friendly “Ultimate Mango Throwdown” during the annual Mangoes at the Moana.

“It’s a chef-driven event,” says Ryan Loo, Moana Surfrider’s food and beverage director. “This event has definitely gained in popularity. Locals come down for the day and our hotel guests get a taste of Hawai‘i.”

Not native to Hawai‘i, the mango found its way to the islands like many of our other favorite foods — via ship. In Hawaiian Annual and Almanac for 1909, Thomas G. Thrum writes that Captain John Meek of the brig Kamehameha brought the first mango trees to Honolulu from Manila in 1824. The Rev. Joseph Goodrich and Don Francisco de Paula Marín, a Spanish immigrant and talented horticulturalist, received these trees, which were the source of a mango strain known today as the Hawaiian race. Thrum further notes that in 1885, O‘ahu businessman Joseph Marsden imported some seedling mango trees and grafts from Jamaica. By 1929, G. P. Wilder and S. M. Damon had imported a number of new mango genus from other countries. Later the Hawai‘i Agricultural Experiment Station of the U. S. Department of Agriculture introduced several new varieties, including Hawai‘i’s most popular backyard tree, the Haden.

While Haden and Pirie are perhaps the two most familiar mangoes, participating cultivators hope to expose attendees to the Mapulehus, Gouveias and Rapozas, mango varieties that are named after their owners. Each mango type possesses a distinct flavor and finish, much like a Pinot Noir red grape differs from a Cabernet.  

 “The Rapoza, for example, is unique to Hawai‘i and I simply tell people that it melts in your mouth,” explains Makaha Mangoes’ Mark Suiso, who started this event eight years ago in Makaha to draw more attention to our local fruit trees. “Others are milder in flavor and have different tastes characteristics and profiles.”

The daylong event will also feature a Farmer’s Market, cooking demonstrations by Moana Surfrider’s chefs David Lukela and Nanako Perez-Nava, “Best Mango” contest, mango-centric cocktails, seminars, and a pop-up bake shop and silent auction to benefit the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College.


Mangoes at the Moana

July 15

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Mango Throwdown

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Participants include chefs James Aptakin (Turtle Bay Resort), Andre Le (Pig and the Lady), Robin Maii (Fête Hawaii), Hiro Mimura (Taormina), Ronnie Nasuti (Tiki’s Bar & Grill), John Salcedo (RumFire) Wade and Michelle Ueoka (MW Restaurant) and Leanne Wong (Koko Head Café)

General admission is $60 at the door or $55 if purchased before July 14. For pre-sale tickets, visit For more information about “Mangoes at the Moana,” call the Moana Surfrider at 808-922-3111 and ask for the concierge desk. 

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