Pictures and Results From the First Ever Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest

The first ever Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest happened today at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa on the Big Island.

Sam Choy, Kamehameha Investments Corporation Marketing Director Valery O’brien and Mayor Billy Kenoi

With over $10,000 in prizes given away to the winners… the real winner was Jim Lighter and “The Heart of the Campus-Equip the Kitchens Campaign” of Hawaii Community College  Palamanui campus who received $1,000 cash collected from more then the 350 folks who paid $3.00 to attend the event.

The event began at 10:00 in the morning in the Convention Center area of the Sheraton and Sam Choy himself was on hand to enjoy the festivities and meet the contestants and folks coming out to the event.

Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa  Manager Paul Horner and Sam Choy sample some poke

Kimo Kahoano and Ke’ea Alapai were the emcees for the day and made sure the contest ran smoothly and folks knew what was going on when and where.

There were four categories and the following folks entered in them.  The professional entrants were judged separately from the amateur entrants (professionals are listed in bold below):

In the Traditional Poke category the following folks entered:

  • Dena Domingo from the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa
  • Jason Kanekoa from the Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • Ken Schloss from Huggos
  • Dale Taylor from The Fish Hopper Seafood & Steak Restaurant
  • Kekuanaoa Hind from Ohana Home Maintenance
  • Guy Toyama from Natural Energy Lab Hawaii Authority (NELHA)
  • Eli Kipilii

The following contestants entered in the Spicy Poke category:

  • Jason Kanekoa from Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • Margy Hanselman
  • Jon Kawamura from Aqua Engineering
  • Susie Osborne from Kua O Ka La Charter School in Pahoa
  • Eli Kipilii

In the Cooked Poke category the following folks entered:

  • Deana Delmar from Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge
  • Jason Kanekoa from Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • Gwen Edwards
  • Kristine Stone from Hawaii Community College Culinary

And in the category of Poke with Soy Sauce the following folks entered:

  • Kelsi Ikeda from Sandy’s Drive Inn
  • Jason Kanekoa from Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • Kevin Lanning from Island Thyme Gourmet
  • Eli Kipili
  • Ryan Koyanagi from Aqua Engineering
  • Keoki J. Rivera

There was a panel of 12 judges – Kyle Chock (Kamehameha Investment Corp. President), Sam Choy Jr. (Fisherman, Poke Connoisseur), Greg Chun, (Kamehameha Schools VP – Keauhou Kahalu’u Ed Group), Nancy Ginter-Miller (Produce to Product, Inc.), Fanny Au Hoy (Retired Hulihe’e Palace Curator), Paul Horner (Sheraton Keauhou Resort & Spa Resort Manager), Kawehi Inaba (Fit Express), Bruce Kekuewa (Kamehameha Schools Kea’au Campus Food Service Manager), Rex Matthews (Fisherman), Barbara Nobriga (Daughters of Hawaii), Dr. Keanu Sai, Carla Tracy (Maui News Dining Editor), Mark Tsuchiyama (Hualalai Resort Executive Chef) and Jaz Yglesisas (KAPA Radio).

After the judges had their share, the public then got to enjoy samples of all the poke and folks got to enjoy the same stuff that the judges got to try!

While the judges were deciding who the winners would be, Guy Toyama from the Friends of NELHA, gave an educational presentation on “NELHA: A Catalyst for Sustainable Seafood Production” that was well received by the folks listening to the presentation.

Most of the contestants and Sam Choy

Sam Choy himself personally brought the contestants aside from everyone and talked about the importance of Poke on the Big Island and said the following to the contestants:


Then the fun began!

Shortly there after a Celebrity Poke Cook-Off happened where Mayor Billy Kenoi himself officiated the 30 minute challenge that was won by Gene “Bucky” Leslie of Flowers for Mama.

Then the winners were announced:

  • Overall Winner: Gwen Edwards of Kailua-Kona
Guy Toyama’s Traditional Poke was a hit!
First Place Category Winners:
  • Cooked: Gwen Edwards with Paniolo Shrimp Poke
  • Spicy: Susan Osborne with ‘Aina Life Culinary Arts Class at Kua O Ka La Charter School in Pahoa with ‘Ulu-Ahi Spicy Poke
  • Traditional: Guy Toyama of NELHA in Keahole-Kona  (he used all ingredients sourced from NELHA) with Keahole Point Poke
  • With Soy Sauce: Keoki Rivera of Kailua-Kona with Little Touch of Heaven

Professional Awards:

  • Traditional
  1. First Place: Jayson Kanekoa of Waikoloa Beach Marriott with Fruits of the Sea Poke
  2. Second: Ken Schloss of Huggo’s With Ahi Tuna Poke Tower
  3. Third: Dale Taylor of The Fish Hopper Seafood & Steak Restaurant with Chef Dale’s Lilikoi/Mango Poke
  •  Cooked
  1. First: Jayson Kanekoa of Waikoloa Beach Marriott with Lobster, Scallops & Shrimp Cappucino Poke
  2. Second: Deanna Del Mar of Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge with Lilikoi Spice Poke
  • Spicy
  1. First: Jayson Kanekoa (only pro vying in this category) with Spicy Kampachi Pockets Poke
  • With Soy Sauce
  1. First: Kevin Lanning of Island Thyme Gourmet Catering in Kailua-Kona With Poke Contest Recipe
  2. Second: Kelsi Ikeda of Sandy’s Drive In in Kainaliu with Everything but the Oxtail Poke!
  3. Third: Jayson Kanekoa of Waikoloa Beach Marriott with Soy Sake Box Poke
The contest winners received koa bowls, cash and gift certificates from sponsors and the Celebrity Cookoff winner received a neighbor island overnighter.
Sam Choy closed out the day by giving a presentation himself on how he likes to make his world famous poke.
A great time was had by all and a special thanks to the sponsors of the event: Kamehameha Investment Corporation, Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, Aloha Shoyu, Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, Island Fresh Fish, KTA Keauhou, Kamehameha Schools, Sam Choy’s Restaurant, Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering, Young’s Market-Waivera Water, Y Hata, and Great American Self-Storage.