Chefs in paradise

The Big Island's agricultural renaissance is the result of a creative collaboration between growers and innovative Hawaiian chefs
Matthew Jaffe

The Big Island's agricultural renaissance is the result of a creative collaboration between growers and innovative Hawaiian chefs.

In the 1980s, celebrated chefs Peter Merriman and Alan Wong helped pioneer a regional cuisine inspired by fresh local ingredients.

Merriman and Wong are still going strong, but now a new wave of chefs is on the rise ― among them Jon Matsubara of CanoeHouse, and Joshua Ketner of Hilo Bay Café. Both are devoted to an island cuisine based on local ingredients, such as the longans that Ketner buys at the Hilo Farmers Market.

The possible combinations are almost limitless, but as Matsubara plans his dishes, he employs a simple test. "If I can taste it in my head, then I know it's going to work out," he says.

For all the opportunities a chef has on the Big Island, there is also the usual assortment of pressures. When they need to decompress, Ketner and Matsubara each opt for a busman's holiday, Big Island chef-style: They go fishing.