San Diego’s I Love Poke Festival Recap 2014

Posted by Neens on


The I Love Poke Festivals have become an annual tradition amongst fish-eating, Hawaii-loving enthusiasts in Southern California.  Not only do we have some of the most notable chefs in town making poke, but we also have a wide variety of Island styled fare to ensure that you get a good dose of all the plate lunch, musubi, shave ice, Island & Asian inspired food that we love in Hawaii.

On May 20th, hundreds came together at the Bali Hai on Shelter Island for another SOLD OUT I Love Poke Festival in San Diego. I Love Poke Festival (now in its 5th year) has become a mainstay in the San Diego festival scene having sold out every year since it started in 2009.

The variety of Island & Asian eats in Foodland & Sweetland on top of the Pokeland offerings ensured an onolicious time for all attendees.


In FOODLAND: Puesto collabo’d with Neens & Chef Sumo Sato (I Love Poke Festival Founders) for a special taco EXCLUSIVELY for I Love Poke: The Kalbi Kimchi Taco; Hodad’s brought their infamous Guido burger in slider form on King’s Hawaiian rolls out to play; Panca brought the Peruvian flava; L&L El Cajon flexed their Ramen Burger game; Supernatural Sandwiches blew people out of the water with their shrimp salad; Ohana Cafe broke da mout with their teri chicken and coconut rice; Guahan Grill, Matua’s, and Chamorro Grill all stoked us out by reppin’ Chamorran cuisine with each of their own specialties!

In SWEETLAND:  Ho’onani Cakes & Pastries brought the house down with their malasadas; Sweet Layers showed off a ridiculously awesome SPAM Musubi Cake AND a Roast Pig Cake WHILE giving us the gift of Hawaiian wedding cake; the Cravory with all their gnarly flavors confused us into thinking it was the “I Love Cookies Festival”; Sweet Bricks created a coco-mac nut toffee just for I Love Poke; Magnolia Ice Cream cooled us down with their many delicious tropical ice cream flavas; SnoCal Shave Ice gave the whole festival the shave ice fix they needed.

In POKELAND: This year, we had 13 San Diego chefs and ONE chef all the way from Da Big Island (Chef Nakoa Pabre of Umeke’s) throw down in the POKELAND competition. This year we debuted the SHAKA Trophies for the first time as the mantlepiece if you Won, Placed, or Showed.

Three of the four winning chefs from 2013’s ILP (Chef Ian Kadane of Harney Sushi, T-1st; Chef Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro, T-1st; Chef Christopher Spayde of Blue Wave Bar & Grill, 3rd) returned to compete for the top spot again and had a great showing but were overtaken by four new chefs taking home a Shaka Trophy. The 2014 San Diego I Love Poke Festival Winners were:

::: 1st Place – Chef Kurt Metzger of Kitchen 4140 :::
Ahi infused with Japanese cherry blossom and hibiscus teas, marinated with bluegrass soy from Kentucky. Topped with mango relish, toasted coconut, mac nut, and coconut foam.

:: 2nd Place – Chef Keoni Simmons of Sushi On A Roll ::
Fijian albacore, toasted mac nut, ocean salad, cucumber, poke sauce, and uni.

: 3rd Place (tie) – Chef Dion Morales of Bali Hai Restaurant :
Traditional ahi poke with wasabi. Served on shrimp chip.

: 3rd Place (tie) – Chef Alvanette Kauwalu-Pacheco of Specialty Produce :
Cubed watermelon “poke” topped with coconut cream, sweet and spicy Szechuan-candied walnuts, smoked serrano sea salt, and arugula blossom.

Big mahalos to all the chefs who came out because I Love Poke Festival would not be the awesome event it is without y’all!

Full list of competing chefs and their restaurants: Chef Eric Manuel of Firefly at the Dana, Chef Dion Morales of The Bali Hai, Chef John Park of Fish 101, Chef Keith Lord of Wild Thyme Catering, Chef Jason Velasquez of Nobi Evolution Catering, Chef Justin Lewis of Wrench & Rodent at Bull Taco, Chef John Medall of The Patio, Chef Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro, Chef Ian Kadane of Harney Sushi, Chef Keoni Simmons of Sushi On A Roll, Chef Christopher Spayde of Blue Wave Bar & Grill, Chef Kurt Metzger of Kitchen 4140, Chef Alvanette Kauwalu-Pacheco of Specialty Produce, and Chef Nakoa Pabre from Umeke’s.

Stay tuned for next year, San Diego.

Orange County! We’re bringing this party up to you on June 30th! I Love Poke Festival in Huntington Beach at The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel. Get your tickets before they sell out!

  • Theodore May

    Is there a calander available online Xx Teddy Dr

Be the first to know what's happening at Ono Yum!

Exclusive recipes & offers, food and cooking inspiration, special event invites and much more.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter