An Insider’s Look at Maui Chef’s Table


Enjoying the Maui Tropical Plantation Chef’s Table both as a guest and as an employee, I am one of the few people who gets to experience it from two perspectives.

By Nicole Busto

Barley CongeeBeing a guest is obviously the preferred way to experience Maui Chef’s Table. It is a three-hour dinner extravaganza. You get to relax with wine or a cocktail (or both) and experience Chef’s creative dishes. Portions are small and generally rich so you are satisfied without being stuffed. The flavors of each course leave you wanting more though for sure. My favorite course is probably the beef course. Our beef is sourced from right here on Maui, and most of it comes from Beef and Blooms, Hawaii’s first certified organic ranch. It is so tender you almost don’t have to chew. Amazing! Each course has a weekly theme, however ingredients are always changing according to whats available from local farms.

carrot fennel lemon salad

Best of Both Worlds

I’ve been lucky enough to experience Chef’s former more intimate location at Maui Executive Catering in Haiku and recently at his newer location at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. The current location seats around 40 people and has more of a party vibe. You can get up and watch Chef work his magic and plate the food, and you are welcome chat with him and his assistants.

Enjoying being a guest

Pecorino sausage charcuterieI will never pass up the opportunity to be a guest at Chef’s Table. It is such a treat to be able to sit and relax, to enjoy each and every dish and to be treated like a VIP. My coworkers go above and beyond to make sure myself and my family always have what we need, the glasses are never empty and the wine keeps flowing.

Another fun aspect is being seated with other guests I’ve never met before. (Each table seats six, and usually our party is only four.) This last time our group was seated with an older couple from the midwest. They were thrilled to get all of my inside information about the plantation, Chef Jeff, Kumu Farms, other local farms we source from, my favorite cocktails, wines and dessert wines. I was able to pair drinks with every course we had, and they complemented them perfectly.

Kauai shrimp dumpling

Working the event

Now working Chef’s Table is a pretty big deal at the Mill House Restaurant. Four servers are assigned to the event, and because it happens only once each week, it’s a refreshing change from the daily routine.

'opelu fishAll of us work together to gather the items we will need to give the most excellent service. This means bringing everything over from the main kitchen area: plates, silverware, linens, glasses and much more for 40 plus people. It is a trek! We get started at 3:00pm and have everything ready to go at 6:00pm when the event begins.

During service we are watching our tables and guests as well as watching each other to see where we are at during service. We frequently run to the bar at the restaurant to order and get drinks. It is a lot of back and forth, so we definitely get our exercise. It is extra fun when it is raining and we get soaked on those beverage runs — oh, the challenges of working outdoors. I’m not complaining, I’ll take this work over a desk job any day! During service sometimes there are extra plates of food. That’s when we disappear around the corner to take a bite or two (if we are lucky). We chew as fast as we can so we can get back out on the floor to make sure our guests are taken care of and happy, and to make sure we are getting set up for the next course. It is sometimes a crazy and hectic experience being a server at an event like this but when the guests are “mmmming” and “oohhhhing” over the food, it is all worth it.

Beef brisket

It’s all about the food!

chocolate star anise crémeuxI love food personally and I love serving people who also love food. It is the people who really appreciate an experience like this who make my night. Getting to eat food that is prepared with creativity, fun and love for delicious tastes is such a great time! This experience is about making a memory around food, and it helps (in my opinion) that nearly all the food served is locally grown on the islands.

If you love food and want to make a lifetime Maui memory I can highly recommend joining us at a Maui Chef’s Table. And don’t forget to tip your server generously!

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