While Kaua’i is known as the Garden Isle, visitors rarely consider the edible garden that the island, in essence, is. Kaua’i has several large farmers’ markets, and now, at Anaina Hou Community Park, you can sign up for a Saturday farmers’ market cooking class that doubles as a deep-dive education in the fruits and vegetables of this abundant place.
Chef Troy Damery, a self-taught master of vegan cooking, is originally from the Midwest but visited Kaua’i with his family every year as a child. Four years ago, he made the island his permanent home, and his plant-based cooking classes are a great way to experience true Hawaiian culture. Set in beautiful Kilauea (not to be confused with the active volcano on the island of Maui), on the North Shore against a backdrop of the Anahola mountain range, Chef Troy’s enthusiasm for local cooking is visible, and he loves to share it.
While his classes are designed as a parent/teen bonding activity, Troy is a wide-ranging teacher who can meet kids of all ages, and adults of all skills levels, where they’re at. My 13-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter had a blast learning the names of new fruits — and tasting them — then cooking together with Troy and enjoying a meal altogether.
The experience starts with a “guided forage” of the market, as Troy walked us through the stalls, chatting with each vendor by name and thoughtfully considering what to buy for the impromptu meal we would prepare together. Then, after we prepped, chopped, combined, and tasted some more, Troy baked our vegan creation in the commercial oven inside — he became enamored of the “Sunday bake” during his time in England, and this is his Hawaiian twist — along with an Ayurvedic kitchari as a base — while we had 45 minutes to explore the market freely. My kids headed straight for the fresh coconuts and cacao smoothies.
When we returned, we feasted together on a healthful and delicious vegan meal. Of all the many adventures we had on Kaua’i that week, this one was the most satisfying in terms of getting in touch with the local culture.
Anaina Hou offers other cultural experiences, including the Ahi Lele Fire Show on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the summer. Kilauea is a happening town, with a great fish market, a bakery, and the coolest shopping on the island. Whether you’re staying in town or just passing through on your way to Hanalei, you should absolutely make time to enjoy the farmers’ market and a fun, educational, and delicious cooking class with Chef Troy.