Chef Roy Yamaguchi is certainly not one to rest on his laurels. While running an empire of his eponymous restaurants and co-chairing Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival, the iconic chef has been rolling out a string of fresh restaurant concepts. After launching Roy’s Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort and two O‘ahu locations of the Kaua‘i-debuted Eating House 1849, the lauded toque turned to Maui, where he recently debuted Humble Market Kitchin at the newly reimagined Wailea Beach Resort.
Though the operative word is humble, the restaurant, which is part of the Marriott’s $100 million redesign project, deserves a little boasting. The space is stunning and almost meditative. Pops of blue, muted green and burnt orange evoke coastal cool, while sculptural lighting gives the ceiling a modern flourish. Drenched in natural light, locally sourced art adds to the chic space, which expansively stretches along what used to be chef Sheldon Simeon’s Migrant and chef Mark Ellman’s Mala, Wailea. The semiopen kitchen displays the fresh produce delivered in-house daily.
Textural sand-colored walls and live-edge wooden communal tables echo the natural elements that beautifully surround the resort. The wall symbolizes the sea carving away at the island’s topography. To achieve this look, an artist in Napa, Calif., worked on the right plaster and sand combination for a period of months.
“It visually narrates the idea of being on the edge cliffside and looking out,” said Jackson Butler, studio director of the restaurant’s design firm, EDG. “We even had a full-height mock up in our office to get the right gradation and movement.”
Butler shared a quote by Robert Frost that inspired Humble Market Kitchin’s design process: “The land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be, The water comes ashore, And the people look at the sea.”
And Yamaguchi’s culinary journey is certainly connected to the sea. Raised in Tokyo by a Maui-born military father and an Okinawan mother, the chef found his appreciation for food during his childhood visits to his grandparents in Hawai‘i. Yamaguchi fondly remembers summers of tasting locally caught seafood and stocking shelves at Yamaguchi General Store in Wailuku built by Grandpa Henry. His grandpa also ran a couple of restaurants in town, so it’s no surprise that every project has been a tribute to his father’s and grandfather’s cooking and a reflection of his own evolving style.
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