• Doc Mele

Maui's Chef's Table: Magical and Epic


My travel buddy wanted to go somewhere and do something different in Maui.

Somewhere different than streets lined with hotels and condos. Something different than a zipline, lu'au, or helicopter tour. Something different, but still epic.

Chef Taylor Ponte and his crew

My only option was to take him to dinner at The Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. But not just any dinner. This would be a dining adventure in paradise!

Located in central Maui, the Maui Tropical Plantation is now a working farm. Not only is there a general store, gift shop, and the Mill House Restaurant on site, but there's also a separate rustic pavilion for diners interested in a Chef’s Table experience, led by chef, Taylor Ponte.

It was Christmas eve and we arrived 45 minutes early to walk the grounds and take in the sights and sounds. Past the gift shop, wandering towards the pavilion, we had to walk through a promenade of towering trees, where loads of well-hidden Myna birds chirped in unison, before we reached our dining destination.

host and sommelier, Thoger Petry

Once there, we were greeted by the evening’s host and sommelier, Thoger Petry, who gave us an overview about the Chef’s Table experience before escorting us to our assigned seats.

We were seated at a table where three other couples would be joining us for the evening. At the Chef's Table, patrons usually dine with complete strangers, but leave with new friends. Not only did we share a meal together, but we connected through our interesting stories.

The dinner is a six-course meal experience, inspired by Waikapu’s seasonal bounty and the chefs’ innovative culinary techniques. Each of us picked wine that suited our fancy and house sourdough bread with haiku honey clove butter was provided for the table. The first course was an innovative farm egg, with moloka'i sweet potato and caviar. The second course: Maui gold pineapple with Hawaiian chili, cucumber, and mint. The third course: Kona cold lobster with cauliflower, leek, and finger lime. The fourth course: macadamia nut risotto with parmesan and poha berry. The fifth course: duck breast, with brown butter, fennel, and blood orange. Of course, dessert was the grand finale, which was an onolicious smoked cheesecake, made with white chocolate, haiku honey, and spiced meringue.

Thoger was very accommodating with us, as we have food allergies and sensitivities (such as shell fish) and provided us with equally delicious modification options. I had Opah fish instead of the lobster, and it was so onolicious that I've now been craving it for days.

During the evening, we were encouraged to approach the cooking area (where our meals were prepared) to speak with the chefs and take photos. During certain points in the evening, Thoger addressed the dinner guests about the courses, gave wine suggestions, and told stories about the property's history.

house sourdough with haiku honey clover butter

farm egg/moloka'i sweet potato/caviar

another perspective of the farm egg/moloka'i sweet potato/caviar

farm egg/moloka'i sweet potato/caviar at our table

Maui gold pineapple/Hawaiian chili/cucumber/mint

my opah dish, specially made due to my shellfish allergies

macadamia nut risotto/parmesan/poha berry

smoked cheesecake/white chocolate/haiku honey/spiced meringue

Everything we consumed was fresh and satisfying, and no wonder. The ingredients for the food are sourced locally whenever possible. Usually, restaurants give five times more food than what is necessary (and we wonder why the US is one of the most obese nations, globally), but my course portions were fair in size, and I didn’t feel stuffed like most of us do during Thanksgiving dinner, nor did I feel like I needed more food to eat at the end of my meal.

This is Hawai’i, so you don’t have to wear a suit or an evening dress for the occasion (just a caveat: locals look down on the high maka makas, which means they don’t take warmly to pretentious snobs), so don’t overdo your attire, but do dress in smart (in the UK that means business casual: look relaxed, but put together)resort wear. My travel buddy wore slippahs…..and he looked da kine!

Back on the mainland, I count down the months, days, weeks, hours, and minutes, I return to my beloved Hawai'i again. I miss the people, I miss the aloha, I miss the balmy air, and I miss the food. But I remember my time at the Chef's table, where my dinner companions and I raised a glass, and someone toasted, “Best dinner ever!”

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Info: Maui Mill House Chef's Table. 1670 Honoapi'ilani Hwy. Walkup, HI. 96793. Phone: 808.270.0333. Reservations are required for the Chef’s Table experience. Arrive about 45 minutes beforehand to walk the grounds, take photos, or shop in the general store.

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