The Best Chefs On Maui
Maui is a renowned foodie destination. From food trucks to five-star restaurants, eateries across the island boast innovative menus— highlighting Hawaii Regional Cuisine and Maui’s bounty of fresh offerings. Instead of another list identifying Maui’s best restaurants, let’s turn our focus to the men and women who take Maui’s food scene to the next level. Here are some of the best chefs on Maui, from Top Chef stars to born-and-raised hometown heroes.
Hilo-born chef Sheldon Simeon is a household name on Maui. His influence is ubiquitous on the Valley Isle: Simeon once oversaw culinary operations at Old Lahaina Luau, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. More recently, the Top-Chef star opened Tin Roof and Lineage (although he eventually stepped down from the Wailea restaurant) and took over Tiffany’s in Wailuku. In developing his menus, Simeon draws inspiration from his Filipino heritage and upbringing in Hawaii. The result: innovative modern cuisine with adherence to tradition.
Tin Roof – 360 Papa Place, Kahului. Tues-Sat, 10 am-8 pm.
Counter service joint turning out heaping local favorites: chop steak, mochiko chicken, saimin, garlic noodles, and other Hawaiian-style comfort food.
Tiffany’s – 1424 Lower Main Street, Wailuku. Thurs-Mon, 4 pm-10 pm.
Divey local favorite with Asian-fusion, Filipino, and local fares. Sushi, cocktails, and bar seating are also on offer.
Peter Merriman is one of the founding fathers of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. In 1985, Merriman spearheaded the movement when he accepted an executive chef position at the Mauna Lani Resort with the goal of serving regional cuisine. At the time, no other restaurants served local fish, meat, and produce. Peter had to scour the island for local producers: he put out ads in the newspaper and went to local farms, ranches, and docks to connect with suppliers. The mission snowballed quickly, and in 1991, Peter Merriman and eleven other chefs announced a culinary concept they called Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Today, there are nearly a dozen restaurants across the state, and each one continues to serve the freshest, locally sourced products.
Merriman’s Kapalua – 1 Bay Club Place, Kapalua. Daily, 4 pm-8:30 pm.
High-end farm-to-table restaurant with nightly prix fixe menus.
Monkeypod Kitchen – 10 Wailea Gateway Place, Wailea / 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Whalers Village Kaanapali. Daily, 11 am-10 pm.
Buzzy, casual eatery with locally-sourced fares, happy hour, and live music.
Hula Grill – 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Whalers Village Kaanapali. Daily, 11 am-9 pm. (10 am-2 pm, 4 pm-9 pm Sunday)
Beachside digs with farm-to-table dishes, tropical Maui cocktails, and excellent people-watching.
For many in the food and beverage industry, the pandemic brought countless livelihoods to a grinding halt. But it’s often said that when one door closes, another opens, and such is the case with 2015 Chef of the Year, Jeff Scheer. The Ohio native and Maui Culinary Academy graduate founded Maui Executive Catering— an acclaimed, high-end dining catering service— and worked in some of Maui’s most prestigious kitchens as executive chef, including the Mill House and Travaasa Hana (now Hana Maui Resort). When the pandemic hit, Jeff and his wife Kaili began making and selling pizzas from their outdoor wood-burning oven. Demand for their sourdough pizzas grew exponentially, and in the summer of 2021, the Scheers opened their first restaurant: Marlow.
Marlow – 30 Kupaoa Street, Pukalani. Daily, 11 am-2 pm; 4:30 pm-9 pm.
Casual, chic eatery serving authentic Neapolitan pizzas, Italian bites, local beer, and wine.
Isaac Bancaco’s culinary career has led him to some of the finest kitchens in America, including Roy Yamaguchi’s Los Angeles restaurant. But the Maui-born chef’s roots are embedded in Hawaii. After working with Yamaguchi, Bancaco was inspired to return home and turn his focus to Hawaii regional cuisine. It was only natural: Bancaco grew up feasting on produce from his grandmother’s garden and fish he caught. Today, Bancaco is hell-bent on reversing Hawaii’s dependence on imported foods. During his time as executive chef at the Andaz, Bancaco’s menus featured 85% local cuisine— a feat few Hawaii resort chefs attempt. In his new role as executive chef at Pacificʻo in Lahaina, Chef Bancano introduced a new concept highlighting locally-sourced products and traditional island flavors.
Pacificʻo on the Beach – 505 Front Street, Lahaina. Tues-Sat, 5 pm-9 pm.
Upscale beachfront eatery serving creative dishes with locally sourced seafood and produce.
Lee Anne Wong
Chef Lee Anne Wong boasts an impressive epicurean resume. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, Chef Wong cooked and staged in a laundry list of prestigious kitchens— including the French Laundry, no pun intended. But Wong is best known for her appearance on season one of Top Chef, where she made the final four. Wong’s easygoing nature and innovative fusion dishes made her a crowd favorite, which spawned a media storm and took her career to new heights. She later appeared in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and The New York Times and went on to serve as executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines. Wong has since opened two restaurants in Hawaii— Koko Head Cafe on Oahu and Papa Aina in Lahaina— and made Maui her home base.
Papa Aina – 658 Wharf Street, Lahaina. Daily, 8 am-2 pm.
Casual brunch spot with American eats and seafood in historic Pioneer Inn.
Zach Sato’s culinary career has been tumultuous yet rewarding. Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for six years before serving as executive chef at Hotel Wailea. Suddenly, the pandemic hit, and Sato found himself with no job, no benefits, a mortgage, and a family to provide for. The situation forced Sato into action, and mid-pandemic, he opened his first restaurant: Havens. Havens started in a no-frills joint next to a gas station in Kihei, serving smash burgers, noodles, and temaki— “local comfort food,” as Sato puts it. Havens quickly gained a solid local following. Two years after opening, Haven’s expanded to include a food truck, with two more food trucks currently in the works.
Havens – 30 Manao Kala Street, Kihei. Daily, 10 am-8 pm.
Busy local counter with a selection of smash burgers, handheld sushi, and noodles.
Havens Food Truck – 591 Haleakala Highway, Kahului. Thu-Sat, 10:30 am-8 pm. Sun-Mon, 10:30 am-3 pm.
Maui-born Taylor Ponte is one of the island’s brightest culinary luminaries. The Upcountry native graduated from UH Maui College’s Culinary Arts Program, where he shined as a student. Ponte then went on to cook under the tutelage of Johnathan Mizukami— another Maui-born chef— at one of Oahu’s top culinary venues, the Vintage Cave. But it wasn’t until Ponte was hired at the Mill House that his career took off. He worked his way up the ranks to executive chef, where he crafted a menu showcasing the bounty of Maui’s farmlands— featuring innovative dishes like taro risotto and pork musubis. Ponte’s elevated takes on local favorites earned him the Chef of the Year title at the 2020 and 2022 Aipono Awards. Although the Mill House changed ownership during the pandemic and Ponte no longer serves as executive chef, he now runs his own private chef service, bringing his inventive culinary expertise and knack for hospitality to kitchens across Maui.
Kamado Maui – Private Chef Service kamadomaui.com
Private dinners, events, and pop-ups.
Known as the “Kitchen Assassin” to his 63,000 Instagram followers, Alvin Savella is the culinary powerhouse behind some of West Maui’s most popular restaurants: Down the Hatch, Mala Ocean Tavern, and most recently, Duckine! Born and raised in Lahaina, Savella took off after high school to pursue his epicurean dreams, earning a bachelor’s degree in culinary management from the Art Institute of California. Savella worked in high-profile kitchens on the mainland before returning to his West Maui roots. He further developed his dazzling plate ups and flavor-infused dishes while working as chef de cuisine at Pulehu at the Westin. He later accepted a chef de cuisine position at the Banyan Tree at the Ritz Carlton, where his creative plates helped secure his 2018 Chef of the Year title. Today, Savella is the Owner and Executive Chef of Duckine, Asian Kine Fusion—a duck-centric Chinese and local Hawaiian-style fusion restaurant located across the street from Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina. Beautiful cocktails, an outstanding menu, and a fantastic dining experience make Duckine a must-try!
Duckine, Asian Kine Fusion – 1312 Front Street, Lahaina. Daily 11 am – 10 pm.
Asian-Hawaiian fusion restaurant offering a creative, duck-focused menu and hand-crafted cocktails. Lunch, dinner, happy hour.
Down the Hatch – 658 Front Street, Lahaina. Daily, 7:30 am-1 am.
Laid-back, open-air restaurant with brunch offerings, fresh seafood, cocktails, and a late-night scene.
Mala Ocean Tavern – 1307 Front Street, Lahaina. Daily, 9 am-10 pm. Open until midnight Thu-Sat.
Cozy eatery on the water with brunch, live music, and Pacific Rim and Mediterranean eats.
Beverly “Bev” Gannon
Bev Gannon is arguably Maui’s most successful female chef. The Le Cordon Bleu graduate moved to Maui in 1980. That same year, she and her husband started Celebrations Catering— now the longest-running catering company on the island. Celebrations Catering was just the beginning of Bev’s long and fruitful culinary legacy. Over the next three decades, Bev opened several distinguished Maui restaurants, was nominated for a James Beard award, served as Corporate Chef for Hawaiian Airlines, and received nearly a dozen ‘Best Chef’ accolades from The Maui News, Aipono Awards, and Hale Aina Awards. Bev is also recognized as one of the 12 Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement founders— and the menus at Gannons and Haliimaile General Store still reflect Bev’s passion for island-fresh ingredients today.
Haliimaile General Store: 900 Haliimaile Road, Makawao. Tues-Sat, 11 am-2:30 pm, 5 pm – 8:30 pm.
Upscale restaurant acclaimed for its Hawaii Regional Cuisine, located in a historic building.
Gannon’s: 100 Wailea Golf Club Drive, Wailea. Tues-Sat, 12:30 pm-8 pm.
High-end eatery with sweeping views and an inventive, regionally inspired menu.
There are so many great chefs on Maui, and this list just scratches the surface. We know there are plenty of other well-established chefs and up-and-comers out there. Who is your favorite Maui chef? Tell us who we missed in the comments.
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