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One the highlights of my trip to Maui this summer was the opportunity to do a Persian Cooking class to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association of Maui. I was personally extremely excited about the opportunity to not only introduce Persian food to those in attendance, but also showcase how healthy and delicious Persian cuisine is.

I have been fortunate to have been raised with two cultures that evolve around healthy food.  We have never been the type of people to eat out of a box or a can.  For me, as you may have noticed from this blog, food is at its best when prepared with fresh ingredients.  A meal that is made from fresh ingredients is ten times more healthier than anything that comes out of a box or a can.  Additionally, I am a huge believer in having control over what you put in your food. Sometimes it really freaks me out to read labels for certain food products where I have no idea what the ingredients listed are, or mean.

I have mentioned in my writing in the blog that The Sous Chef and I like to buy our produce and fruits from our local farmers market.  It is safe to say that we are supporters of the  Slow Food Movement, as we both believe that it is extremely important to support our local farmers and economy.  A fruit or vegetable that has been picked unriped and has riped as it traveled thousands of miles to get to your local grocery store will never taste anything like the ones purchased from your neighborhood farmers market.  The difference in taste is extremely evident. There is something to be said about a fruit, or vegetable, that has been harvested at right time and traveled a few miles to get to you.  It actually tastes like what it should taste like.

When the concept and philosophy behind the Maui cooking class was introduced to me, I was overcome with emotions. Not only I would be involved with The American Heart Association, an organization that tirelessly works to bring awareness about the importance of taking good care of our heart, but also the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing and inspiring folks. How could I not want to be part of such wonderful project??!!

To make the pot even sweeter, all of the ingredients for each dish were not only grown in Maui, but were all donated for the cause. I am proud to say that all the proceeds of the event went to the American Heart Association of Maui.

I can’t begin to tell what an exciting opportunity this was for me. There is something very powerful about knowing where the food that you eat comes from.

Our first stop of the day was at Lahainaluna High School.  Dania Katz, Susan “Chef Teton” Campbell, James “Chef James” Simpliciano, and I met at high noon and drove up the hill to the high school’s farm where we would catch our fish.

All the fish that we caught and cleaned were generously donated to us by the Lahainluna High School.

Chef James has been volunteering his time on a weekly basis to teach the kids how to cook with all the veggies and fish harvested from the high school’s farm.  The students collectively work to create lunch plates which are purchased by the local folks who come by to support this program. All the proceeds are then thrown back into the farm in order to support this program. I find it to be such an amazing program.

I can’t describe the various emotions that were running through my body the moment I walked into the small farm.  My eyes welled up from the excitement of actually catching and cleaning the very same fish that I was going to cook and serve that evening.

Chef James and Chef Teton went right to work using a net to catch the fish!

Once all the fish were caught we headed over to the cleaning station!

Chef James, the expert, showed us how to scale, clean, and fillet the fish.

Our work station’s view was simply incredible.  In front of us was Lahaina and the island of Lanai.

I had a field day with the fish. Some may find it gross, but to me it was one of the most exciting things I have done in life.  There may have been a part of me that felt bad about terminating the life of a fish, but there was something very primal about taking these fish and readying them with your own hands to then cook them a few hours later.

Once we were done with the fish we mad our way to the Archipelago Hawaii showroom in Lahaina Design Center where our cooking demo would take place.  Can I just share that I was salivating in this kitchen. SALIVATING! When I grow up, I want a kitchen just like this!

Chef Teton, Chef James and I spent the next couple of hours getting ready for the demo! Leading up to the day of our event we played around with the menu a few times, but in the end we settled on Sabzi Polow Mahi, Kuku Sabzi, and Mast-o-Khiar Soup!

Soon enough the room was buzzing with excitement as our guests filled up the showroom. The idea for this gathering was to make it as intimate and relevant as possible. And sure enough, it was all of that and more.  We had some amazing folks who came over to support our cause.

I was incredibly fortunate to have the best two chefs to help me prep and make a meal that was enjoyed by all! Chef Teton and Chef James were absolutely awesome!

It was a huge honor for me to be part of this project, but most importantly having the opportunity to show case Persian food.  All of this could have not been done without all of the hard work and generous contributions from the following people:

Dania Katz from Edible Hawaiian Islands and Roseann Bronston from Archipelago Hawaii who worked out all the logistics.

Rick Cowan, president and co-owner of Archipelago Hawaii for letting us take over his showroom and being so incredibly flexible and generous with his time.

Roxanne Tiffin from Kula Fields Inc. for gathering and donating all the local produce for our cooking extravaganza.

Lahainaluna High School for donating the delicious fish that we used.

Marilyn Jansen for taking pictures during the demo and tweeting pictures away!

This event was a wonderful gathering that brought many of us together for a great cause. I could have not asked to collaborated with a group more supportive and professional. But most importantly, it could have not been as successful had it not been for all the wonderful folks that showed up to support our venture!

Last but not least, Amy Hampton, the Program Director of the American Heart Association of Maui, reminded me that women’s number 1 killer is heart disease. So please do take care of your heart, your health, and take the time to give back to your community!

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