Hawai‘i’s culinary scene is hallmarked by impressive chefs and dishes with a local twist. Here, we check in with some of Hawai‘i’s finest chefs, who share their favorite locally sourced ingredient right now and why they love creating experiences to savor in Hawai‘i, where cultures and cuisines inspire.
Chef Vikram Garg. PHOTO COURTESY OF TBD...BY VIKRAM GARG
What part of Hawai‘i are you from? Maunalani Heights in the Kāhala neighborhood on O‘ahu
What inspired you to become a chef? My love for food and travel
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? The Hawai‘i food scene’s a potpourri of various cultures. I love it!
Mushroom “donburi” made with Koshihikari rice, mushroom escabeche and pepper sauce. PHOTO COURTESY OF TBD...BY VIKRAM GARG
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? The loco moco. I make one with a wagyu burger patty, Hamakua mushrooms. I add dried scallops to the Koshihikari rice and top it off with a farm egg poached and deep fried.
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? Hamakua mushrooms. The quality is fantastic, and I absolutely love mushrooms!
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? TBD…’s mushroom risotto on the dining room menu and the mushroom ‘donburi’ on the restaurant’s lounge menu.
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? It’s important to me to support our community’s farmers and purveyors and bring business to our local economy. Freshness and sustainability are also very important and why I source locally.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? All of O‘ahu’s farmers markets! The Kaka‘ako at Ward Village and Kapi‘olani Community College markets are my main go-to spots.
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? All the ‘kids’ on the menu are important to me; everything’s my favorite… I love them all! My recommendations and what I eat are based on the moment; it’s dependent on the climate temperature, the mood and the company to decide what to eat.
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? I go to the golf course to get my vitamin D fix and to be away from everything and disconnect. It’s my opportunity to take time for myself to take in all of Hawai‘i’s beauty.
Royal Lahaina Resort & Bungalows
Ahi carpaccio topped with a limu ogo salad at the Royal Ocean Terrace. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROYAL LAHAINA RESORT & BUNGALOWS
What part of Hawai‘i are you from? I was born and raised in the town of Lahaina on Maui, just down the road from the Royal Lahaina Resort & Bungalows.
What inspired you to become a chef? My father inspired me to become a chef. Growing up, he owned a restaurant called The Coconut Grove, and I loved watching him cook alongside my godfather. I also loved watching cooking shows on television. My favorites were Great Chefs, Cooking at Home With Julia and Jacques, and Yan Can Cook.
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? The Hawai‘i food scene is so special and unique because we are melded together by a mix of cultures that you really can’t find anywhere else. The food is influenced by Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino and Hawaiian cultures, just to name a few. Each background comes together to form what is now called Hawai‘i regional cuisine.
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? My favorite is a mixture of a few dishes put together. It consists of pork laulau, lomi lomi salmon, ahi limu poke, hot steamed white rice and poi. These flavors instantly transport me back to my childhood growing up here in Lahaina.
Executive Chef Jayson Asuncion. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROYAL LAHAINA RESORT & BUNGALOWS
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? Limu ogo, also known as seaweed. It has a salty ocean taste with hints of onion and a crunchy texture. This unique item can be used in many different ways. It pairs well with various types of proteins and can be served raw or cooked using different techniques.
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? We currently use it in our hapa poke dish and as a salad component with our ahi carpaccio served with a citrus ponzu sauce. The most popular dish that includes limu ogo is poke. We serve our poke bowls with troll-caught fish, steamed rice, avocado, edamame, sriracha aioli, seaweed salad, sesame and kabayaki.
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? It’s important to showcase our deep-rooted farming traditions and local purveyors here in the islands. Our islands have so much to offer, from local cattle to an incredible array of fruits and vegetables. Sourcing ingredients locally also helps to make the connection between what you’re eating and where it comes from, and it is a more sustainable way to eat, greatly reducing our carbon footprint and ensuring that our local community thrives.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? We source our limu ogo from Kahuku, O‘ahu. My go-to place to shop is our local farmers markets including Huamomona Farms and a collaborative group called Local Harvest.
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? I highly recommend our Hawai‘i-style steamed hamachi. It’s drizzled with sizzling oil with ginger and scallions and served with a seasoned soy sauce and choy sum. Delicious!
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? The beach. Not one in particular because there are so many to choose from. Anywhere where you can just sit, listen to the sound of the ocean and watch the waves crash before you. It never gets old.
Zaru kalo noodle through Sun Noodle. PHOTO COURTESY OF PILI GROUP
What part of Hawai‘i are you from? Mānoa, O‘ahu
What inspired you to become a chef? My mother and Hālau o Kekuhi
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? We live on an island, and our food culture is sculpted not by trend but by necessity. At the root, ‘local food’ is a language, our love language.
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? I think my favorite is kalo. It can be used in so many ways. I’m excited to work with Sun Noodle to introduce their kalo noodle product. The brand has been working closely to collaborate with local kalo farmers like the Reppun family to develop it.
If we’re talking about post-Western, contemporary local food, it would be saimin… period. Small wonton min, four extra wonton, three meat stick (it’s meat stick, not sticks, no matter how many you order), from Palace Saimin in Kalihi.
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? In addition to kalo, local pork. As I like to say, ‘You can eat a pig from the “roota to the toota”’!
Chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi. PHOTO COURTESY OF PILI GROUP
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? Char siu, adobong baboy, rafute, pork tofu, pork and peas, laulau, lū‘au stew, sancocho, feijoada... how much space do you have?
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? Because it’s traveled less—it’s fresh—and when you spend in the 808, it stays in the 808. We’re an island with finite resources, so it takes all of us working together to flourish.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? Farmers markets and Foodland
What dish on your menu is a must-try? When catering, I would say saimin and luau stew are the most requested dishes people ask me to cook. #RamenIsTrendySaiminIsLife
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? My favorite place would be anywhere that I can’t use my phone or computer.
Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco. PHOTO BY SPENCER STARNES/COURTESY OF PACIFIC’O ON THE BEACH
Pacific’o on the Beach
What part of Hawai‘i are you from? I’m born and raised in Keokea, Maui, and the slopes of Haleakalā.
What inspired you to become a chef? I absolutely love to eat and I love the feeling great food gives me. I find food and the way it’s integrated in different cultures very intriguing. It’s so interesting how ingredients make their way around the world and serve different purposes depending on the cooking process and the needs of people. When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to become a chef because in our household, the cook didn’t need to wash dishes… and I was darn good at creating dishes to be cleaned.
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? Our people. The root of our cuisine lies in the kitchens of our grandparents and their parents, so on and so forth. Everything about our food scene is built on our style of hospitality here in the islands. That’s the kind of stuff that can’t be taught, and it’s unique to us.
The mahi-mahi Wellington at Pacific’o on the Beach. PHOTO BY SPENCER STARNES/COURTESY OF PACIFIC’O ON THE BEACH
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? I absolutely love ulu cooked in coconut milk with a touch of cinnamon. OK, maybe the cinnamon isn’t Hawaiian, but as a stealth ingredient it’s delicious.
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? Papio, and it’s one of the few ingredients that you won’t find on anyone else’s menu. It’s near and dear to my heart because I understand the difficulty to harvest papio. There’s one fisherman that goes out to target this fish, and he’s quite an amazing man. He’s a cancer survivor, one of the few ‘old-style’ fishermen left in our area, a former fire knife dancer and a straight-up local legend.
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? Our blackened papio is the second-best-selling dish on our menu, and it’s one of those dishes that came together through a collaboration between all of our sous chefs and myself. The dish has a great mix of root vegetables from O‘o Farm and features arugula and caramelized onions, which creates a truly great balance of flavors and spice.
Which locally sourced ingredient is important to you? Persimmons. I’ve known the Hashimoto family from Kula, Maui, my entire life, and to say the product is a reflection of how the family are as people would be an understatement. Persimmons from the Hashimoto Farm are perfect in shape and size, their flesh is some of the sweetest fruits we grow locally, and when each tree decides to fruit it flourishes, as does the Hashimoto family’s generosity and character in our community.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? O‘o Farm. We currently receive 500 pounds of amazing produce weekly and their product just keeps getting better and better. If I’m shopping to cook at home, the Saturday farmers market in Upcountry, Maui, is the best.
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? Mahi-mahi Wellington is a must-try for sure! This dish combines lobster, duxelle, asparagus and a pea emulsion.
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? The ocean, and specifically fishing, is my first passion above cooking. When it starts to feel like life is getting out of hand and stressful, it’s usually due to my lack of time in the water.
Chef Robynne Maii PHOTO BY SEAN MARRS/COURTESY OF FÊTE
What part of Hawai‘i are you from? Honolulu, Hawai‘i
What inspired you to become a chef? I wanted to do something I could see myself doing every single day. I love the tactileness of cooking—of course I love the eating part, but [also] the physicality of it and the metamorphosis of raw ingredients into delicious food.
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? I think it’s our seasonal and local products—they’re so fresh. We’re so lucky to have nice weather all year round.
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? It would have to be laulau with poi (with lomi salmon on top of the poi).
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? Probably Bill Howes’ sunchokes and artichokes from Kolea Farm. They’re so delicious. He’s also somehow miraculously figured out how to grow them in Hawai‘i’s heat.
Green goddess beet salad at Fête. PHOTO BY SEAN MARRS/COURTESY OF FÊTE
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? It’s our Hirabara Farms grilled Thumbelina carrots. We grill the Hirabara Thumbelina carrots and toss them in whole butter and sherry vinegar. We pile it on top of sunchoke aioli and finish it with sunchoke chips and dill.
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? Mostly because it’s fresher and therefore more nutritious and tastier. Also, it’s important for Fête to support local farmers and businesses.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? Foodland Farms and Marukai
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? Our green goddess beet salad. It’s marinated local beets with local lettuce tossed in our green goddess dressing. We serve it with avocado, crispy shallots and chives.
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? I love to go back to ‘Āina Haina and hang out with my parents in their big yard. My father inherited the ‘Maii-can-growthings’ gene. He grows all kinds of things, but mostly orchids, and I love spending time with them there.
Executive Chef Alexandre Petard. PHOTO COURTESY OF ‘ALOHILANI RESORT WAIKIKI BEACH
‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
What part of Hawai‘i do you currently live in? I was born and raised in Nantes, Loire Valley, France. Hawai‘i Kai, Honolulu, is home now.
What inspired you to become a chef? My grandmother and father inspired me to start cooking and become a chef. They were both chefs, so I’m the third generation of chefs in the family.
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? The island flavors and its unique fusion—it’s unlike anywhere else. Our incredible local ingredients and flavors are combined with a melting pot of cooking techniques to create something truly one of a kind.
Ahi poke nachos at Swell Bar. PHOTO COURTESY OF ‘ALOHILANI RESORT WAIKIKI BEACH
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? Ahi poke and rice
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? Sea asparagus, officially known as Salicornia. It can complement a lot of dishes, like poke and fish, and it can also be pickled and used as a garnish. It also packs a punch when it comes to nutrition and health benefits.
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? Our anuenue salad at Swell Bar contains sea asparagus. It’s a very refreshing salad with organic mixed greens, carrot, radish, cabbage, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, macadamia nuts, wonton crisps and a shallot-ginger dressing.
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? Locally sourced ingredients are important because we are able to work with local farmers and support the community in a sustainable way.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? Tamashiro Market for fresh fish and poke
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? Ahi poke nachos at Swell Bar. We use bigeye tuna, wonton chips, dynamite and kabayaki sauce, furikake, avocado, edamame, cucumber and local-style kukui nut oil. It’s unbelievably delicious.
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? Makapu‘u Point for hiking. You get great views of Makapu‘u and Waimanalo Bay on one side and the Ka‘iwi Channel on the other with vast ocean vistas and whales during certain times of the year.
I‘a ekolu (fish three ways) at The Sandbar PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERATON MAUI RESORT & SPA
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
What part of Hawai‘i do you currently live in? I was born and raised in Kansas City and moved to Lahaina, Maui, in 2016.
What inspired you to become a chef? I’m inspired by creating lasting memories for people through food. From special celebrations to everyday moments, so many of life’s greatest memories happen while you’re enjoying a meal, and I love that I get the opportunity to be a part of that.
What makes the Hawai‘i food scene so enthralling? Hawai‘i is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, which has led to a lot of fusion cuisines. You can find everything here—traditional Hawaiian, French, Polynesian, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Korean, and combinations of different and new flavor profiles that have been developed by those cross-cultural influences. The food scene in Hawai‘i is fun, flavorful and full of opportunities to try classic dishes, new takes on old favorites and brand-new flavors you haven’t tried before.
What is your favorite Hawaiian comfort food? Mochiko chicken and kalbi ribs
Chef Mark Majewski. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERATON MAUI RESORT & SPA
What is your favorite locally sourced ingredient? I love to work with pineapple because of its versatility. You can use pineapple in savory and sweet dishes across breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Popular dishes that include this ingredient? We created a delicious entree dish for our exclusive oceanfront dining menu: fresh catch from Hawaiian waters, steamed in a banana leaf with shiitake risotto, crispy mushrooms and a pineapple sage beurre blanc. For dessert, guests love the pineapple creme brulee with caramelized pineapple and fresh berries. We also feature a compressed pineapple and jicama salad on our menu at The Sandbar, Kā‘anapali’s only lobby bar, and pair it with thyme-infused honey and Surfing Goat Dairy goat cheese, which is sourced from Kula. For cocktail enthusiasts, we feature a fun chocolate-dipped pineapple garnish on The Sandbar’s signature mai tai.
Why are locally sourced ingredients important to you? Sourcing local gives us the opportunity to create dishes for our guests that highlight local products and flavors while also supporting our state’s local farmers, fishermen and ranchers. Beyond that, sourcing directly means you know exactly where an ingredient came from and how it was produced. When you eat a tomato that’s locally grown versus a tomato from a factory, you can really taste a huge difference.
Where’s your go-to place to shop ingredients? Any local farmers markets. I visit Napili farmers market a couple of times a month and love seeing what’s new and fresh.
What dish on your menu is a must-try for new diners? One of our most popular dishes is our i‘a ekolu (fish three ways) at The Sandbar, featuring a striped marlin poisson cru, with coconut milk, lime juice, avocado, cilantro, red onions and bell peppers; traditional ahi poke, with Maui onions, ogo, alaea Hawaiian pink salt, inamona and green onion; and mahi-mahi ceviche, with yuzu pearls, leche de tigre, avocado, Fresno pepper and Moloka‘i sweet potato. The dish comes served alongside crispy housemade Moloka‘i sweet potato chips.
Where is your favorite place to take a break outdoors in Hawai‘i? Either golfing or hiking in Polipoli