Come Join the Fun with Celebrity Chefs Sam Choy, Aarón Sánchez and Ronnie Rainwater on Saturday, June 3, 2023, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

What do 500 pounds of fresh, raw ahi tuna look like? Come and see for yourself! Twenty chefs will compete to transform this deep-sea favorite into an array of unique and delicious poke dishes. On the line: the chance to hook the big prize, reel in some serious bragging rights, and catch the attention of our judges who just happen to be three of the world’s most celebrated chefs: Sam Choy, Aarón Sánchez and Ronnie Rainwater.

Umami Dearest

What is it about poke that it has utterly captured our foodie imaginations? An island delicacy created by spear fishermen 100s of years ago on the shores of Hawaii, poke (which is Hawaiian for “cut into pieces”) is a melt-in-your-mouth umami flavor bomb of seasoned, tender, raw fish that keeps evolving as chefs create new recipes far and near. In fact, today you are just as likely to see a poke restaurant pop up in your neck of the woods as you are a Starbucks.

Ahoy, Sam Choy!

The Grandmaster of Fish, Head Champion of Pacific Rim Cuisine, and undisputed Godfather of Poke is none other than beloved Oahu-born son, Chef Sam Choy. Choy — the man who literally wrote the book on poke — is consulting chef at Koloa Landing Resort, the best Kauai beach resort, and the happy host of the resort’s third annual Kauai Poke Fest — a gourmet mecca where guests get exclusive access to an array of events including live entertainment, all-you can-eat poke and a poke demonstration from the master himself. Part of the proceeds will benefit a local charity.

“Poke is Hawaii’s king of food,” said Choy. “It’s our soul food.” Choy, who is also a James Beard award winner, former chef at the famed Waldorf Astoria in New York City, TV celebrity and Iron Chef says that like LeBron James he just loves doing what he’s been born to do. And our mouths are all the better for it.



Celebrity Judges Extraordinaires

Judging alongside Chef Choy at Kauai Poke Fest 2023 are two of his close culinary friends, world-renowned chefs Aarón Sánchez and Ronnie Rainwater.

Aarón Sánchez, award-winning chef, TV personality, author and philanthropist, is the chef/owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans. A judge on FOX’s hit culinary competition series MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, he is also founder of the Aarón Sánchez Impact Fund, an organization dedicated to empowering Latin youth through culinary education. He is host and executive producer of Warner Bros Discovery’s El Toque de Aarón and El Sabor de Aarón, as well as partner and creative director of “Cocina”, the first online content platform dedicated to celebrating Latin lifestyle through its vibrant culinary culture.

“Familia, can’t wait to be part of this amazing festival and taste new poke creations,” said Chef Sánchez.

Ronnie Rainwater has worked with Emeril Lagasse for more than 20 years and is Chief Culinary Officer for Chef Emeril’s restaurants in Las Vegas, overseeing both Delmonico Steakhouse and Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House. Today, he oversees all facets of these restaurants’ culinary operations, from sourcing products and crafting ambitious tasting menus for guests at his kitchen table, to managing the restaurants’ in-house dry-aging program for prime U.S.D.A. beef.

“It is such an honor to be a part of the Kauai Poke Fest alongside the two legendary chefs,” said Ronnie Rainwater. “Chef Sam Choy, once again showing his big heart and giving back to the community. When my long-time friend asked me to be a part, it was a no brainer.”

Sam Choy said, “We’re really looking forward to having Chef Aarón Sánchez and Chef Ronnie Rainwater at this year’s Poke Fest and hope the community joins us, too.” He added, “Over the years poke has evolved from using simple ingredients like sea salt and ogo (seaweed), to making poke with ‘ulu (breadfruit) or tofu and adding in mayonnaise and chili sauce. The Poke Fest really highlights poke’s simplicity and versatility.”

Rah Rah Raw

Come cheer on your favorites! Both professional and amateur chefs are welcome to sign up to compete, and each will be provided a measure of poke-grade ahi tuna and a $150 to cover any additional costs. Completed dishes will be judged on presentation, originality, and taste. Two winners will be selected — one from each category:

  • Crowd Favorite – The dish that receives the most votes from the public will receive a $500 food-and-beverage credit to Koloa Landing’s Holoholo Grill, and a private poolside cabana at the resort’s spectacular 350,000- gallon main pool that has been voted “Best Pool in America” three years in a row by USA Today.
  • Judge’s Choice & Overall Winner – The original poke dish that receives the highest rating by judges Chef Choy, Chef Sanchez and Chef Rainwater will have their name engraved on the coveted Crystal Poke Bowl, a seven-day/six-night stay at Koloa Landing Resort, and their winning poke recipe added to the menu at the Holoholo Grill.


For more information about Koloa Landing Resort’s Kauai Poke Fest 2023, or how to sign up to compete as a chef, visit or contact [email protected].

— Erica Karlin