3900 Wailea Alanui, Wailea
874-8000; open daily 6pm-11pm
Call for kama’aina specials; reservations recommended
What kind of creative license do you get to take with the dishes at Spago? How different is Maui’s Spago from the Spago locations in Beverly Hills and Vegas?
I have some creative range, but we like to keep our staple dishes on the menu. We change the menu nightly, based on fresh and local ingredients that come from the water or the farm. I wait to be inspired by the local produce and the fresh fish that come in that week. I usually try to do research on particular regions of the world to give me more inspiration. Each of the individual restaurants share common dishes, but they can be very different based on available fresh product. So in Maui, we use local Hawaiian fish, which none of the other restaurants have access to.
Describe your culinary technique.
Asian food done the French way.
How often do other chefs visit and dine with you? Do Chef Lee Hefter from Spago Beverly Hills or Spago founder Wolfgang Puck ever drop in?
Wolfgang usually comes two times a year, and Chef Lee comes four times a year or every quarter. On occasion [we] see other local chefs come to dine with us.
What’s it like working with celeb chefs?
I love to learn new ways of cooking as well as the creative thought that goes into other chef’s dishes. I am driven to study and understand different culinary techniques.
Take me through YOUR creative process.
My creative process is different every time. It’s hard to put into words—it just happens. It’s tactile; I see it, touch it, smell it before I decide.
You learned to cook and moved up in the kitchen in L.A. Was “farm to table” a popular phenomenon then? How has it changed what chefs do these days?
I didn’t get to see many farms in L.A. It started when I became [a] chef in Maui and started to get involved with a farmer named Michael McCoy [of Fresh Island Herbs]. Ever since then I’ve used the mantra ‘from farm to table.’ It’s different when you know who is farming your produce and picking [it], and then serving [it] the same night.
What’s the biggest challenge in the Spago Wailea kitchen?
The biggest challenge is satisfying every need of each guest. I want to make everyone happy. Each individual has their own needs.
What do you do in your free time? Do you explore Maui, or is it all work and no play?
Honestly I don’t have much free time due to work, but when I do I love to golf, paddleboard and relax at home. I’ve seen most of Maui and it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
What are your favorite things to make right now?
I love to make ice cream and fresh sorbets.
Do you still do much pastry?
Yes. I started my culinary career in the pastry department, so I have a deep understanding of preparing pastry.
When you teach servers about food, what are the most important factors?
We like to take our servers on field trips to local farms and fisheries so they can visually see where the product comes from.
How stressful is the action in the kitchen?
Admittedly it can be extremely stressful, but as I get older and more experienced the stress tends to lessen every year.