Hotel Hana-Maui's Chef Patterson Puts The Heat On Local Producers

Hotel Hana-Maui's Chef Patterson Puts The Heat On Local Producers

I was recently privileged with a stay at the Hotel Hana-Maui, proceeding the fantastic Celebration of the Arts event held in West Maui, at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. After heated debates over "How to market the spirituality of Hawaii", beautiful performances such as the renowned Hawaiian falsetto masters "Kamakakehau", and an overall warm, fuzzy feeling at seeing typical Ritz-Carlton clientele gelling applaudably with local Hawaiian ohana, I wasn't expecting to have yet another eye-opening moment on Maui to remind me how lucky I am to be in the field of journalism. But it happened.

After a thoroughly relaxing pair of days in an ocean-facing sea ranch cottage--that I professed had my favorite architectural design style (think the lodge at Sundance Resort in Utah)--I met with executive chef David Patterson. Arriving only 2 years prior, Patterson has adapted rather well to living 2 hours from civilization assuming your idea of civilization is a grocery store with more than 3 aisles, a post office (Hana has one) and a Costco. This, considering he moved to Hana directly from the downtown cityscape of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he ran the kitchen of the city's longest running (and most award winning) eatery, "Masonette".

I uncovered a rather astonishing fact during our sit down: Chef Patterson switches out the entire contents of each evening's menu, beginning each morning with a clean slate (and grill). No two dinner menus, back to back, will carry the same item. This, in a kitchen that has both no vendors delivering product on a daily basis, but the majority of what is served on plate has to be picked up from local producers and fisherman. Who has the time?--I asked. Patterson does. At least, he makes time for it.

"We have the luxury of cooking for only 50 to 70 guests per night," Patterson said during an exclusive interview for B on Hawaii. "Which allows me to focus on what the majority of my time is spent on--cultivating relationships around Hana with the community of growers and fisherman that reside here, and have for generations."

Patterson tells me a story--the first of a dozen similar--about a neighbor of his that nurtures a single tangerine tree located in their front yard.

"They are simply the best tangerines I have ever tasted in life," Patterson admits. "But the tree yields less than 5 lbs. every few weeks. No other restaurant I can think of would consider using this kind of product, as there would be no guaranteed daily continuity on the menu. But I can use the tangerines with fresh-off-the-boat ono and make the best ceviche you've hopefully ever tasted. It works for one night, and perhaps I can use the tangerines in something else the following night."

A happy coincidence of this style of cooking, is that the concept has given birth to a line of local heroes, according to Patterson.

"The farmers and fisherman are the celebrities around here. Everyone knows when a certain fisherman pulled in the biggest ahi, or a farmer the most peppery watercress. It spreads fast around here," Patterson adds.

This week Patterson is hosting a handful of "celebrity" chefs from the mainland--including Susur Lee, Cal Stamenov and Craig Von Foerster--as well as well-heeled food aficionados for a week-long culinary and cultural event, spotlighting the "local celebs" Patterson relies on for his vast number of ingredients. Participants will visit Hana growers and fisherman, and learn what goes in to producing organic product for the hotel, and how the relationships thrive off each other. A visit to the Boerner family's Ono Organic Farm will end in a luncheon; freshly roasted coffee and homemade chocolates will be sampled at the solar-powered Kipahulu Farm; a local Hawaiian kapuna (wise elder) will take participants on a tour of East Maui's fishponds, giving a broad view of their cultural significance. The week will also feature a traditional "Hana-style" luau at Hamoa Beach, and end with a multi-course "Flavors of East Maui" dinner prepared at the historic Plantation House by Patterson and his guest chefs.

For more information on the Hotel Hana-Maui and their unique programming, click on the photo of Chef Patterson above or the link below.

www.hotelhanamaui.com

"I found a tangerine tree that yields less than 5 lbs. every few weeks. No other restaurant I can think of would consider using this kind of product, as there would be no guaranteed daily continuity on the menu. But I can use the tangerines with fresh-off-the-boat ono and make the best ceviche you've ever tasted."