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Hale Aina Chefs: Master Class

We talked with 10 chefs and had them answer a few of life's little cooking questions.


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Chef Ryan Luckey isn't fazed by a last-minute appetizer request.

Photo: Ryan Siphers




10 Minutes to: A Big Impression

“Everyone loves brie, and a lot of people keep a little hunk of it in the fridge for when they have a glass of wine,” says Ryan Luckey,  executive chef of the Pineapple Grill at Kapalua Resort, this year’s silver recipient of Hale Aina’s Best Maui Restaurant. Paint some white-bread shapes with a little olive oil and pop them in a hot oven. While they’re toasting, caramelize some canned pineapple with Maui sugar. Stack the toast with a slice of brie, top it with the pineapple, and perch a walnut, pecan or macadamia nut on top of it.




10 Minutes to: Kicking Back

Quesadillas don’t have to be boring, says Casey Halpern (executive chef of Café Pesto, a Hale Aina Award-winner with two Big Island locations)—and one thing the Halpern household always has on hand is tortillas. Halpern details some creative combinations: Defrost some shrimp and veggies, or serve a ham quesadilla with a green apple salsa. Tortillas and cheese are a blank canvas; “the key is for people to know combinations of foods that go well together, like apple and pork,” says Halpern.

10 Minutes to: A Long Winter’s Night

When friends show up at Dave Caldiero’s doorstep, the chef de cuisine of Town says, “My go-to is always beans.” A can of white beans, a can of tomatoes, some leftover bacon, sausage or chicken, bay leaves and thyme, and you’ve got the makings of a quick and delicious variation on cassoulet, the classic French winter dish.



It’s January; time to get to the bottom of your bottled one-hit wonders.


TAHINI  After the hummus … the ginger-tahini vinaigrette. Mariposa’s Marc Anthony Freiberg suggests mixing a quarter-cup each of tahini and water, with a tablespoon each of Coleman’s mustard and grated ginger. Throw in two tablespoons each of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, a splash of sesame oil and the juice of a fresh lime.




RED CURRY PASTE  After the Thai curry … the juicy steak with a kick. Luckey, of the Pineapple Grill at Kapalua Resort suggests giving your rib-eye steak a Thai-style curry rubdown and watch the flavors jump off the grill.



MUSTARDS  After the upscale hot dog … the roast chicken and the pâté plate. If an assortment of mild mustards is hogging the shelf real estate, try what Chef Mavro’s Kevin Chong did when clearing out his pantry at home: “One day I roasted a chicken—I covered the chicken with mustard and put some breadcrumbs with olive oil and garlic.” Ronald Nasuti, of Roy’s, suggests assembling a plate: Bring out your mustards with a pungent slab of pâté, some cheese, breads and pickles, along with a palate-cleanser like fresh fruit. Serve with wine, and have a great evening with zero kitchen sweat.



MISO After the soup … the oatmeal? Alan Wong, of Alan Wong’s Restaurant, eats miso with oatmeal for breakfast: “I love it with a sunny-side-up egg on the top of it.” This combination is not as off-the-wall as you might think; savory (rather than sweet) oatmeal is the traditional preparation in Scotland, where the warming breakfast dish originated.


HOISIN  After the Peking duck … the balsamic reduction. Two parts balsamic vinegar and orange juice, simmered with one part sugar and a big dollop of hoisin, and reduced by half—it goes on vegetables and poultry alike.  Adding a glug of port wine during the simmer makes it a port-wine reduction: a lot of fancy for not much effort, says Halpern. “You have the citrus and the vinegar, which are tart; sugar is sweet; and the hoisin just ties it all together.”


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