A Sit Down with Chef Mavro

We reveal the Spring '09 Menu, talk salt, oil and tomatoes

A Sit Down with Chef Mavro

We sat down face-to-face with James Beard Award recipient George Mavrothalassitis last week to talk about wine pairings, the art of food, farming, where the best salt, tomatoes and olive oils in the world come from—and his new Spring 2009 menu that started this week. In his tenth year of operation, Chef Mavro has earned a wall full of awards, including the only Hawaii restaurant in a "U.S. Top 40" picked by a leading guide book publisher. So where does one of the original founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine go from there? He gives back, of course. Mavro has launched a program called "Restaurant Reality" in partnership with the non-profit Hale 'Aina 'Ohana organization that brings culinary students in to his kitchen—and life—for a two day crash course on what it's like to run one of America's top restaurants. The first program began this week, and runs through Thursday. Two students earned a spot in the debut session, both from Kauai Community College's culinary program. Kauai culinary instructor Mark Oyama is accompanying the students throughout the two-day experience, in four separate events. They include "The Kitchen" experience, which puts them inside Mavro's labratory-like kitchen on the first day of the new Spring menu. Mavro's chef de cuisine, Kevin Chong (who studied most recently in New York and Mexico City under Italian luminary Sirio Maccioni, founder of Le Cirque), now helms the controls at Chef Mavro on a daily basis, and will instill his wisdom on to the two participants. "Sourcing" is the second segment, which will bring the students to local purveyors whose produce Mavro uses. They include Sumida Watercress farm and Jeanne Vana of North Shore Farms (Mavro has called Vana's tomatoes "The best in the world"). The students will also be in the restaurant as Big Island items like abalone and flounder arrive at the back door, in addition to the day's fresh fish delivery. The second day, "Sourcing" will bring the pair alongside Mavro to the Honolulu Fish Auction, where they'll meet GM Brooks Takenaka and learn about the relationships between fisherman and chefs. The third task is "Service", in which the students follow manager and sommelier Todd Ashine on the techniques of serving clientele of a world-class restaurant. Finally, "The Guest Experience" will bring the students and Chef Oyama in to the dining room where they will experience a finale dinner capping their 48 hours of work. As for the new Spring menu, we at B on Hawaii were privy to a preview last week, and have this to add: The Hebi spearfish marinated in olive oil ("It has to be French olive oil, of course," shared Mavro. "The cold winters are necessary for the olive trees to replenish lost nutrients, as it happens in France. Many of the oil-producing regions are not in wintry climes."), served with poached quail eggs, sunchoke chips, tomato confit and hanapepe salt ("The white salt is actually better than the red; it's cleaned by tiny shrimp that live in the salt wells," added Mavro) is spectacular. Meat lovers won't be disappointed with the Blackmore Wagyu strip loin served aside burgundy braised veal cheek, a light bérnaise, potatoes and essence of Sumida watercress. Finally, Mavro's "Spring berries & Hibiscus Pavlova" may become Honolulu's most sought after dessert. Imagine (if you can) star anise-flavored meringue filled with marinated local berries and a hibiscus ice cake granita... Run don't walk! Chef Mavro's "Art of Wine Pairing" offers three, four and six-course menus that range from $69 per person (three-course, without wine) to $179 per person (6-course, with wine). Visit www.ChefMavro.com for information, directions or menus. Call 808 944-4714 for reservations. Chef Mavro is closed Mondays.

"Star anise-flavored meringue filled with marinated local berries and a hibiscus ice cake is a must!"