“Christmas with the Chefs” originated as Christmas at Hulihe‘e three decades ago on December 1, 1989. Event founder Jean Hull, CCE, AAC, presented the concept of showcasing the culinary talents of the Kona-Kohala Coast chefs, complimented by fine wines, beer, and Kona coffee as a benefit. It was a shared fundraiser for Hulihe`e Palace, the Culinary Arts program at Hawai‘i Community College’s campus in West Hawai`i and the Kona-Kohala Chefs Association. Hull presented this “formula” on April 4, 1989 to the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Association and to Hulihe`e Palace, and it was received with much aloha. “Hulihe‘e Palace was thrilled to be the location for the inaugural event,” shares Hull. Ross Wilson, of Current Events, chaired this culinary extravaganza and gathered lovely art and items for the silent and live auctions. Hull secured the chefs, wines, ales, coffee and water. Palace curator Fanny Au Hoy and her staff graciously hosted the event. The event continued at Hulihe‘e for several years, and during this time, 80 percent of the proceeds were directed to the palace and 20 percent to the chefs. Many improvements were made on the palace property, including a new stone wall surrounding the grounds and entrance. This premier holiday extravaganza was held at Hulihe‘e Palace in the heart of historic Kailua Village for the first five years.
When it appeared it could no longer be delivered at the palace, a proposal came from Craig Leeper, GM of the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and Ahuena Heiau, Inc. Leeper was planning a benefit for the heiau and wondered if the chefs were interested in partnering. “In 1995, Leeper, turned cartwheels to host this the sixth annual event with very little lead time and did a remarkable job,” recalls Hull. The Ahuena Heiau, Inc. were co-beneficiaries along with the ACF Kona-Kohala Chefs for scholarship awards and the culinary arts program at HCC-West Hawai`i.
In 1996, looking for a permanent site, Hull approached Fred Duerr, GM of the Kona Village Resort, who embraced the idea immediately. The Kona Village Resort offered its entire staff to assist with the logistics for presenting “Christmas at Kona Village” to over 600 guests. “It took many ‘volunteers,’ in addition to the Kona Village staff to present this culinary extravaganza,” remembers Jean. “It was considered by many as the social event of the season. Kona Village offered greatly reduced room rates for attendees—which was a very attractive feature.” Chefs prepared elaborate culinary booths with festive decorations, including gingerbread houses. The following volunteers chaired this event: Verna Keoho-1996-2000; Cathy Smoot-Barrett-2001; Paul Heerlein, 2002-2004; Piet Wigmans and Carrie Kuwada Phipps, 2005-2006. To show its appreciation the Kona Kohala Chefs began honoring culinary participants who volunteered for 10-15-20+ years with a special award.
Piet Wigmans and Carrie Kuwada Phipps were co-chairs of the benefit for the 18th year, “Christmas at Keauhou Bay” on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa.
“Christmas at Kona Village-Dining with the Chefs” moved back to Kona Village from 2008-2010. William Trask and Stephen Marquard co-chaired this benefit in 2010. In 2011 the Kona Village Resort was damaged and closed due to the devastating effects of a tsunami.
From 2011-2013, the event was held at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i, celebrating its 25th year in 2013 with seats for all guests in the resort’s Grand Ballroom. The Chair in 2011 was Hubert des Marais. Patti Kimball chaired the event in 2012 and 2013. Gingerbread houses by culinary students under the direction of pastry instructor Fernand Guiot were available for sale in the Silent Auction.
From 2014-2017 “Christmas Dining with the Chefs” was held outdoors on the lu‘au grounds at The Courtyard King. 2018 Today, the event’s name has been shortened to Christmas with the Chefs. Guests continue to enjoy scrumptious fare from over 20 local chefs and confectioners. These culinarians primarily use locally sourced ingredients to prepare tantalizing cuisine with a holiday twist—all accompanied by handcrafted ales, wines and 100 percent Kona coffee.
Today, the event’s name has been shortened to Christmas with the Chefs. Guests continue to enjoy scrumptious fare from over 20 local chefs and confectioners. These culinarians primarily use locally sourced ingredients to prepare tantalizing cuisine with a holiday twist—all accompanied by handcrafted ales, wines and 100 percent Kona coffee.