The Hawaii-Cuisine Pioneer
by Jen Russo
Looking for female inspiration in the boys club that is the food and beverage industry? Look no further than Chef Bev Gannon.
“I like to throw great parties,” Chef Gannon says, “and no matter what I do I have to be the best I can be.” It is those two philosophies that created her current love triangle of Maui restaurants: Hali’imaile General Store, Joe’s, and Gannon’s a Pacific View Restaurant. In the early days she says, “As a female it took me longer to earn respect. I have had to work harder.”
It looks like her hard work has paid off, with a list of accolades that take up a whole sheet in her press kit, from James Beard award nominee, to Small business person of the year for the State of Hawaii, not to mention the celebrity followings at her restaurants.
Hali’imaile General Store opened in 1988, just three years after Bev launched her successful catering company Celebrations. More than 20 years later Hali’imaile General Store remains her most world renown restaurant, recognized and appreciated internationally for its Asian overtoned Americana cooking. In 1991 she was one of the founding chefs that established the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement, Chef Gannon defined this descriptive style along side of other Maui Chefs Mark Ellman and Peter Merriman, and also Oahu’s Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi.
In late 1995 Bev Gannon opened Joe’s in Wailea and created her own style of gourmet comfort food. Gannon’s opened in December of 2009 where Bev continues to develop her modern hawaiian regional cuisine menu.
“Everytime I open a restaurant I think it will be breeze.” Bev says,”Now here I am 22 years later after opening Hali’imaile General Store and I felt like a novice again.” Her 150 employees spanning 3 restaurants and 1 catering company are her big family, and she has made her family’s mission statement to continuously, “up their game in the food and beverage industry.”
Being the best include paying close attention to food trends and tackling the tricky task of changing her menus at her three restaurants. Its not as easy as deciding something is delicious and putting it on the menu. “There are certain dishes people come for and they get really upset if it is gone. But the kitchen needs to be stimulated too. My husband likens the action in the kitchen to a broadway show. It can’t be the same scene over and over. We have to have a bit of a challenge and stir things up a bit. I want to give folks what they want.”