KAANAPALI, HAWAII—Just a few steps away, the boardwalk bustles with happy vacationers soaking up the island sun. A couple steps beyond that, the beach is packed with busy families and deck chairs packed with prostrate visitors, while a handful of swimmers are wading into the waves, braving a slight chill in the Pacific waters. Few of them would imagine a plantation — or a farm — is right nearby, but here on the green, tropical grounds of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, I walk with executive chef Thomas Muromoto.

First, he shows me the banana trees, then the lemongrass and aloe, and finally one of Hawaii’s primary staple crops, a big path of taro. A few minutes earlier, the chef had demonstrated how to cook a few of his favourite dishes — the foods of his childhood, growing up on neighbouring Oahu — and now I was seeing their provenance, in the fertile soil of Maui’s west side. He’d grown up on the land and water, even surfing professionally, and now Muromoto had worked in the hotel’s kitchens for 18 years.

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