A New Chef de Cuisine at Chef Mavro Restaurant is Stirring Things Up
Mavro is one of Hawai‘i’s most singular chefs. But when you’ve got French Laundry veteran Jonathan Mizukami as your new chef de cuisine, things are bound to change.
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Photo: OLIVIER KONING
And there’s the aromatic and creamy white-truffle risotto—my favorite—made with stubby, milky grains of Arborio rice, extra-virgin olive oil and nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, topped with fresh white truffles shaved tableside.
Yet some of my favorite flavors by Mizukami come as complements to the main focal point of Mavrothalassitis’ dishes, showcasing how this unlikely culinary pair can combine their varied experiences, backgrounds and palates to create memorable dishes. Take the roasted Niman Ranch lamb loin, which is draped in a Pondicherry vadouvan curry and served with fried basmati rice tossed with toasted cumin seeds. Classic Mavrothalassitis. But then Mizukami adds his touch in the seasonal sides that pair with the lamb. There’s a cucumber-mint raita, a tasty green-strawberry chutney, and slivers of watermelon rind pickled with saffron, coriander and cloves cleverly made from the unused rind of local watermelons used for the pre-dessert.
Mizukami’s technique is impeccable, his flavors bold, his rarified approach to cooking and plating both intellectual and tasty. It’s obvious from his dishes—classic Italian risotto, Indian-style chutneys—that Mizukami is deft at working with ingredients and techniques from around the world. Much of that comes from extensive experience cooking in diverse kitchens and with international chefs. But his love affair with global flavors started well before he even enrolled in culinary school on Maui.
When he was around 11 years old, his mother, a divorced schoolteacher, pulled him out of school to take him on a yearlong trip around the world. They traveled to Greece, Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Turkey, experiencing the different cultures and foods in these countries.
When they returned home to Maui, his mom continued to excite Mizukami’s palate by cooking dishes from a different cuisine once a month. Sometimes it would be Thai, other times German.
That variety and the opportunity to be creative drew him to the kitchen.
“I like that it’s always changing,” Mizukami says about cooking. “It’s never the same.”
That’s true working for Mavrothalassitis, too.
Mizukami is fascinated with fermenting foods right now, and Mavrothalassitis is indulging him. Mizukami lugs out what looks like a giant ceramic vase, explaining that he’s going to make French sauerkraut and age it in this crock for at least four weeks. He’s also started to churn his own butter using local cream. Mavrothalassitis just listens and smiles.
“I’ve done 28 years of Pacific-Rim food,” Mavrothalassitis says. “OK, now, with Jonathan, let’s start exploring.”
Chef Mavro, Wednesday to Sunday, 6 to 9 p.m., 1969 S. King St., 944-4714