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Queen of Hawaiian Cuisine

Chef Beverly Gannon talks about Hawaiian regional cuisine.

For the past six years, restaurateur Beverly Gannon—an avowed lover of her mom’s Jewish cooking—has been designing in-flight meals for Hawaiian Airlines. Trained at London’s Le Cordon Bleu, she moved to Maui in the 1980s and began cooking for her husband’s vacationing friends. Now her hugely popular restaurants—the Hali'imaile General Store and the homey Joe’s, in nearby Wailea—are icons of an emerging style of Hawaiian cooking.

Q You helped launch a culinary movement?
A Back in the ’80s, the herb farm here was shipping everything to the mainland. The mahimahi was going abroad! Thirteen of us chefs got together in 1991 and began lobbying our farmers, fishermen, and others to give us the best fruit and vegetables, the best locally caught fish. The food we started cooking got labeled "Hawaiian regional cuisine."

Q Is it really Hawaiian?
A Hawaii is a melting pot of ethnicities: Western, Asian, Pacific Island, and lots more. We cook in a way that blends all the culinary styles.

Q What are your favorite ingredients?
A I love pomegranates, fresh goat cheese, and foie gras—but I also love Spam.

Q Can you cook fine food on an airplane?
A I’ve been a caterer for 22 years. Airline cooking isn’t all that different. The basis is, how is this going to taste after it’s cooked, refrigerated, and reheated? A beef filet won’t work but brisket will, because it tastes better the next day.

Q Where can food lovers visiting Maui find the real thing?
A At farmers’ markets. The Kahului shopping center on Wednesdays, the Kaahumanu shopping center on Fridays, and on weekdays in Wailuku. More and more at Safeway and Foodland, too.

Photography by Tony Novak-Clifford

This article was first published in March 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.