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Kaua‘i man wins Melona contest on O‘ahu

HANAMAULU — Donovan Riopta of 22° Baked returned from his weekend trip to O‘ahu with the first place prize from the inaugural Aloha Melona Dessert Contest held at the Kapiolani Community College cafeteria on Dec. 9.

“We didn’t think it was a big deal, so we didn’t go,” said Peter Riopta, Donovan’s father. “We figured we’d just stay at home and watch TV.”

Donovan said the contest involved making a dessert using up to 10 different ingredients, and Melona ice cream for the 11th ingredient in a Food Network-style competition featuring several judges, including the president of Korean-based Melona.

“Melona was introduced in Hawai‘i in 1995, and has grown to become the best-selling ice cream in America,” Donovan said. “Hawai‘i was the first market for the Korean firm’s venture overseas, so it’s only natural that they choose Hawai‘i for their first big contest where the first place earned $10,000, second place earned $3,000 and third place earned $2,000.”

Donovan faced a field of about 70 contestants, including another competitor from Kaua‘i, the Familee Korean Shave Ice food truck in Kapa‘a who, like himself, applied for the contest online.

“We won the online competition by getting the popularity vote,” Donovan Riopta said. “At the site on event day, we also got the popularity vote for ‘Honeydew Melona Basil Panna Cotta.’ The judges were the ones who determined first, second and third prizes.”

Donovan’s creation involved the use the Honeydew Melona, cream, milk, sugar, basil, gelatin, oil, white chocolate, honeydew melon and lemons.

“This win gives him credibility,” said Peter Riopta. “Donovan didn’t go to school for this. He learned by watching all those Food Network shows and his mother.”

Those roots are also the beginnings of 22° Baked that offers window service capitalizing on Taco Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with taco specialties.

“I just like to cook,” Donovan said. “22° Baked started in 2020 when the pandemic made Hawaiian Airlines lay me off. I had nothing to do, so I opened up the shop based on Hawai‘i’s location on the geographical globe — 22 degrees, latitude. I also used to eat Melona from the first time I saw it. If I saw Melona in the ice cream case, I’d beg my mom and dad for some Melona.”

Donovan is back at work at Hawaiian Airlines, and dad Peter said they’re still waiting on the special Melona prize package that is in addition to the $10,000 prize for the winning recipe.

“Maybe it’ll have a trip to Korea,” Peter said. “Wouldn’t that be something?”
Source: The Garden Island

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