There have been some dramatic changes at Alive and Well, which until recently served as the quieter Kahului counterpart to corporate operations like Down to Earth and Whole Foods.
Since 1993, the family-owned business has been a reliable mainstay of Maui’s wellness community. The organically oriented deli and health food store might not have been the flashiest kid on the block, but it did steady business with a loyal base of customers.
These days, Alive and Well is looking particularly stylish after an extensive renovation of its kitchen and deli to create a new restaurant, broth (small “b” intentional). The creative team behind it was assembled by renowned juice and broth guru Craig King, who spearheaded the renovations and has moved his longtime juice and broth operation to the store.
Design consultant Kelly Andrews has transformed the once-plain dining area into a vibrant display of color, wood, and curvature, where customers can eat at tables flanked by a “living wall” with 350 succulent plants or at the u-shaped, conversation-friendly bar. The breakfast and lunch menus, created by Noah Schuster – the third member of the creative team – feature original dishes like the now-popular Maui Mountain, a combination of purple sweet potato, puffed rice, strawberry, papaya, and banana with a sweet and sour lime topping. Broth also offers a number of broth and ramen selections, vegan and non-vegan, plus Vietnamese bahn mi, Korean congee, salads, fresh fish, and juice “flights.” In addition to incredible flavors, Schuster’s artistic food presentations rival those at any upscale restaurant on the island, without the nosebleed prices.
“We’re getting great reviews,” says general manager Michael Ray. “Plus, people say it feels more communal now.”
Along with regular customers, Ray says he’s been seeing new faces as well, “People have come in right after landing at the airport, saying they’ve seen our reviews on Yelp.”
Beaming over Alive and Well’s new incarnation is Craig King, who recently relocated to Maui from Boulder, Colorado. King embodies his passion for creating unique juices and broths; he looks decades younger than his 56 years and brings a youthful enthusiasm to his work. Although he began his career as an actor and model in Los Angeles, his passion for healthy food superseded those desires. He’s worked as a private chef for entertainment and business moguls (such as Whole Foods CEO John Mackey), traveled with Saudi billionaires, and created signature juices for private label companies selling to Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Whole Foods, among other adventures.
But he’s best known for his juices and broths. King has been described as a “juice alchemist” and the description is apt. Clients from Manhattan to Maui have taken King’s cleanses. His juices feature the usual fruits and veggies, but in bewitching combinations: watermelon/coconut milk/beet, pineapple/apple/coconut/ginger, and lemon/Hawaiian honey/turmeric, to name a few. Unique to his cleanses are the broths he also creates – brews like mushroom, Thai coconut, and curried vegetable.
Although he’s had lots of mainland opportunities and success, King says his heart belongs to Maui and was a periodic presence on island before moving here permanently in 2018. He initially offered his juices and broths as executive chef at the Lumeria Upcountry retreat and later developed personalized cleanses for private clients. Last year King took a small partnership position with Alive and Well owner Darren Jones and began to plan the renovation. Says King, “I realize now that my return to Maui was really about taking Alive and Well on its own big cleanse and restoration.”
Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation.
Tell me about the remodel.
We’ve transitioned from the classic deli model, where all the food is laid out in cold or hot cases, to a café/bistro model. You order your food, it’s quickly prepared from scratch. There’s a fresh creative effort of the chef team to fill that order within five minutes. Right now we’re serving breakfast and lunch. Dinner will launch in June with table service in a very ambient style. We want to be a “destination” restaurant.
Why did you choose the name “broth”?
Broth goes back so far in time. In the 1700s, a man named Boulanger opened the first “restaurant” [which meant “restorative” in those days] and sold broths that he said would restore strength to people who felt unwell. So if we’re really going to start talking about what started restaurants and cafes – it all comes from broth. It’s so elemental; I love it. Along with our other menu items, we’ll serve five different broths, including three vegan broths and two animal-based ones.
Any other changes for the space?
We want to have dance nights with DJs and musicians, and we’ll have our liquor license. The juice department will be developing unbelievable mixers for drinks like bloody Marys and pina coladas. For example, for our bloody Mary mix we’ll take real peppers and chunks of roasted garlic and crush them into an amazing tonic that someone might want to add vodka to.
How do you explain your passion for broths and juices?
I was born in Decatur, Georgia and my family was in the food business. My grandfather ran a produce warehouse that serviced the entire Southeast. I’d put on a parka and play with vegetables in coolers bigger than this store. To this day, whenever I see produce I get a whole body high. My uncle owned a 40-acre vegetable farm, and I’d spend my summers there and do everything: Get eggs, milk cows, pick vegetables. In the evening, we’d go back to the farmhouse and my aunt would stew the turnip and collard greens that we’d picked that day and after dinner she’d call me to the stove and take the leftover green juice, pour it into a jar and say, “Drink this, it’s the ‘pot liquor.’’’ I’ll never forget how it made me feel. It turned something on. So that was the seed of broth in my consciousness.
But you initially moved away from it when you went to Hollywood at 18.
Through a friend, I met [famed modeling agency founder] Nina Blanchard and traveled the world working for her. Then I had bit parts on “Dynasty” and later was hired for a speaking part in Mask [the 1985 true-life story of facially disfigured teen Rocky Dennis, played by Eric Stoltz, which co-starred Cher]. It was a great opportunity, but, frankly, I was more interested in how food was being cooked for the “craft table” [where cast and crew got their meals].
And what about your passion for juice and juicing?
I did my first 28-day juice cleanse when I lived in Hollywood. It just turned something on in my brain and my nervous system. I wanted to share that feeling with others, so that became a big part of my life.
How did you develop your juice and broth blends?
My travels around the world exposed me to different ethnicities and different flavor bases. I remember the first time I tasted ginger juice eating in a Thai restaurant. I also think – because I juiced so much – that maybe it created extra taste buds on my tongue. At this point, I can design a recipe in my head to the quarter ounce. It’s an alchemy of understanding flavors and how they work together.
What makes your juice better than other freshly squeezed juices on Maui?
Well, in addition to having the best equipment available, there is me, who’s been a practicing juicer for 30 years and still gets excited about making it. If you go into one of the more commercial stores, you’ve got these sweet kids making your juice to order, but there’s a lack of creativity in the product.
You mentioned equipment: Tell me about your juicer. I see that it has its own room.
She is a 600-pound steel, cold-press hydraulic system that gently presses the cell walls of the plant and brings forth the fluid bounty by pressing it with 2,000 pounds per square inch. There’s no heat, no gyrating engines and it pulls the greatest level of vitality from the plant. The net volume of juice from my juicer is twice that of the tabletop juicer you have at home. Plus the pulp from a tabletop is still wet. Not in our case, the remaining pulp is dry. And, the nutrients in our juice remain stable for three days.
What does it take to make a week’s worth of juice at Alive and Well?
We go through 1,000 pounds of produce a week… about two tons a month.
What do you say to people who think juicing is mostly gimmick, with no real value?
They say, “So much sugar.” But what about cucumber juice with parsley, kale, and cilantro? I think most of the negativity is being perpetrated by the food and beverage industry, which isn’t built on health and wellness at large. They’re very threatened by me, [gestures around the store] by this. They say, “Well there’s no fiber.” You do need fiber in your normal life, but when you’re sick, fat, and nearly dead, maybe there’s another way to do it where you can go without fiber for a while to get rid of all the shit you’ve accumulated. I’ve done the juice cleanse 30 or 40 times over the last 28 years; I think I’m all right.
Is there a memorable juicing story you’d like to share?
I was delivering juice to a woman in Wailuku a few years ago and there was a parking lot attendant who I would see every day. He was overweight, unhealthy, and had already had a toe amputated from type 2 diabetes. I said, “Let me treat you to a cleanse; I’ll document your story.” His blood sugar was horrible, something like 350 [normal is less than 100]. He was on insulin but wasn’t doing it properly. So I just focused on watermelon juice because it acts like a diuretic, green juice, and broth. After a few weeks he came off the insulin and his blood sugar stabilized. I mean – if you cut your foot, I’ll send you to a doctor. But as a practicing juicer, I can help you avoid the doctor.
Cover photo by Sean M. Hower
Cover design by Darris Hurst
Photos 3, 4, 5 by Sean M. Hower
Photos 2, 6 courtesy Craig King