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Do the Right Thing!

Monkeypod

Source: "Do the Right Thing!" Kapolei Magazine. Published: November 2013.

“Do the Right Thing!” This is celebrated chef and restaurateur Peter Merriman’s mission statement. Doing the right thing while celebrating the “Art of Craft” are two things all his restaurants embrace, including the newest one, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman at Ko Olina. What does “Doing the Right Thing!” and the “Art of Craft” have to do with food?

They have everything to do with a culinary movement that Merriman started in the early 1980s that is now known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine – a term he first coined. The statement is based on his belief that local cuisine should use and showcase products that come directly from local farmers and ranchers. True to his word, Merriman’s restaurants use 90 percent local products, much of it organic – a very high standard in Hawaii’s culinary world.

Merriman is able to deliver because he has developed long-standing relationships with local producers starting in his first days in Hawaii as a chef at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel on the Big Island. It was there that he began to make the connection between his dishes and the farmers and ranchers on the island, and went directly to them to source his menu. Besides elevating the quality of his dishes, it was a way to help stimulate the local economy. He famously told the farmers. “I want to see you guys drive up in a Mercedes one day.”

This is not to lose sight of the other side of Merriman – which is Merriman the chef. Over the years, he has drawn accolades for the innovative cuisine at his restaurants – from the New York Times, (“Everything at Merriman’s … features the freshest local ingredients paired in exciting ways.”) to San Francisco Magazine (“His Wok-charred Ahi is to die for.”), and The Los Angeles Times(“… he is ‘The Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.’”). He was also a three-time finalist in the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Northwest & Hawaii” category.

While Merriman has restaurants on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, it wasn’t until 2013 that he opened his first Oahu location – Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman at Ko Olina. He describes it as a place where beer lovers, families, and foodies can embrace his passion for regional and sustainable cuisine, using socially sustainable ingredients. “Monkeypod Kitchen celebrates the ‘Art of Craft’ in everything we do, from cuisine and beer, to décor and living.” said Merriman.

Besides resort visitors, the restaurant has already gained a devoted local following. “Local people are a big part of our business,” he said. “We have regular guests coming from as far away as Waimea on the north shore. It’s been fantastic!”

Asked why he selected Ko Olina, Merriman said the west side needs more restaurants, and the whole Kapolei area has tremendous growth potential. As for local farmers, Merriman has already developed relationships with Aloun Farms in Ewa, Ma’o Farms and Kahumana Farms in Waianae, Twin Bridge Farms in Waialua, and Marine Agriculture, LLC in Kahuku. He’s doing the right thing!

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