When Chef Peter Merriman opened his first restaurant in 1988, Merriman’s in Waimea, he started supporting local farmers to obtain fresher and tastier ingredients. Even if it meant paying more, he wanted to use fish caught within hours, vegetables picked the same day, and local meat raised on the slopes of Hawaii’s volcanoes.
This Locavore pioneer has been a finalist three times for the James Beard “Best Chef Northwest & Hawaii” and holds the title as Second Sexiest Chef – originally self-proclaimed but there’s been no debate. He also uses an astounding 90% locally grown and raised products at all four of his restaurants, with another restaurant slated to open later this year.
“My passion has always been to serve great meals,” says Peter. “The best way to do that is through showcasing Hawaii’s farms and ranches and the food they produce.”
I had the opportunity to join Chef Peter Merriman at his Maui Restaurant, Merriman’s Kapalua, for a Locavore BBQ. The restaurant, currently celebrating its second year anniversary, is situated on the Maui coast with a 180-degree ocean view.
The meal, which Chef Merriman prepared tableside, was a culinary feast of the Hawaiian islands. Steamed Keahole clams with garden basil in a grilled lobster sauce, locally grown tomatoes sprinkled with Kona sea salt, roasted baby Kapalua eggplant, and wok seared ahi just to name a few of the numerous items devoured that night. All local and all delicious.
But the star of the evening was the house-cured wild macadamia nut bacon.
Wait, did I just say wild bacon? Yep. And he’s one of the few chefs in the islands serving this delicacy.
Wild pigs are destroying a macadamia nut farm on the Big Island where Merriman has two of his restaurants. They are caught and kept in a pen until they are inspected, and the rest, well, you get the story.
There I was at this beautiful BBQ, looking out at the sunset, and having an internal debate about eating wild bacon. I knew it might be my only chance to eat wild pig. True, you can eat it if a friend catches one, but most people don’t have that opportunity. And there was another reason for the debate. I hadn’t eaten bacon, or any pork product for that matter, in over 18 years. Seriously.
Could Chef Merriman unknowingly get me to eat bacon when others had tried for years to persuade me to try the tiniest piece of ham?
No one at the table knew my vegetarian state – I’m very discreet about my meal preferences – so I looked like one of the crowd when I picked up a piece and put it on my plate.
And it was delicious.
To learn more about Chef Peter Merriman and the Merriman line of restaurants, please visit www.merrimanshawaii.com
*Photos credited to Charla Photography