Chef Mavro discovers there is life after James Beard award
WERE HE the type to do so, Chef George Mavrothalassitis could do the Jimmy Cagney thing from a high point in Honolulu and shout, "Toppa da world, Ma!"
Though an ebullient man, such behavior is not likely despite his restaurant's listing in Fodor's Choice 2006, the famous travel guide's semi-annual list of its editors' top picks.
Chef Mavro is up there with Per Se, a restaurant by the famed Thomas Keller in New York, as well as other noteworthy, but not necessarily arm-and-a-leg-expensive eateries in Brazil, India, Switzerland and elsewhere around the world.
"I told my culinary team and dining room staff that we're going to have to work even harder now," said George Mavrothalassitis, chef/owner of the restaurant, in a statement.
The selection by Fodor's is a thrill for Mavro, even after a pinnacle like the James Beard award.
"It's true, a James Beard award is a lifetime accomplishment," he said, joking that maybe "I can die now (laughter)."
However, restaurants in San Francisco, New York and Chicago receive huge exposure "and we are here and nobody knows what we are doing, so this (Fodor's listing) is great," he said.
Meanwhile, Chef Mavro is rolling out its winter menu, which can be viewed on the restaurant Web site.
Big-eye ahi is one of the key menu items on the new menu, so Tuesday's news that Hawaii's ahi, especially big-eye, has higher mercury levels than previously thought made a huge impact.
Mavro attended the fish auction yesterday morning and "everybody was destroyed by this news," he said. Bad weather overnight meant only one boat had a small catch of ahi. Despite the small supply, the price was "not very high," he said.
It is the highest-quality ahi in the world, which is why he puts it on his winter menu.
"I'm not a specialist on nutrition," he said, but he questions whether the news should be taken so seriously.
He recently read that the health benefits of tofu have been discounted "when for years I have been thinking that tofu is good for health."
"I hope in two weeks somebody's going to say 'sorry we make a mistake,'" about the mercury levels, he said.
"Never mind. I love fish anyway."
The only Hawaii lodging on the Fodor's hotel list was Ho'oilo House, a bed and breakfast just outside Lahaina, Maui. The editors liked the Bali inspiration and furnishings and cited as "best of all" its private outdoor shower.
Hawaii also got a mention on Fodor's "Unforgettable Experiences" list for something many Big Islanders can do for the cost of gas money: "Stargazing Atop Mauna Kea." Of course, the road to the observatories would actually have to be free of snow and open for travel, which it has not been for the last couple of days.
Sellers not low on bucks
The sale of Hawaii's locally owned Starbucks Coffee locations
to the Seattle-based parent company was a deal 10 years in the making, said Dean McPhail, co-general manager of Starbucks in Hawaii.
A decade ago, it took about a year and a half for McPhail and partner Greg Meier to put together an agreement to license Starbucks in Hawaii and build the cafe business. Part of that arrangement was that Starbucks would buy the Hawaii business back from Coffee Partners Hawaii, McPhail said.
"When Greg and I put this together, it was the first and only license that Starbucks ever did in the United States for traditional stores," said McPhail. There were licenses for airport and college-campus operations, but for regular stores, "they never franchised or licensed. We were the exception to that rule."
Starbucks International was previously a 5 percent partner in the joint venture behind Hawaii's Starbucks locations, but it is now the sole owner.
"Ten years went by a lot faster than I ever thought it would, but it's turned out to be a wonderful thing," McPhail said.
McPhail and Meier, along with the MacNaughton Group, opened five Starbucks locations in 1996 and built the business to 54 stores with 1,100 employees. They will continue to lead the Hawaii operations for the foreseeable future, according to Tuesday's announcement.
McPhail and Meier's Jamba Juice business is unaffected by the Starbucks deal.
In the meantime, McPhail, Meier and another partnership are working to make Hawaii's first P.F. Chang's China Bistro a reality.
News of the plan to open the islands' first P.F. Chang and its more casual Pei Wei Asian Diner sister-restaurant broke in this space a year ago. At the time, China Bistro was slated to open this summer and that is still the plan, McPhail said. Late summer is his best guess.
The sale of the Starbucks shops was not caused by the local owners' need for cash to finish construction of P.F. Chang's China Bistro, McPhail said.
"We are starting construction on the Hokua site right now ... and we've brought in an operating partner that has years of experience with P.F. Chang's."
Bob Crowley is overseeing the hiring of a management team. The restaurant will be in between casual and fine dining, pricewise, a category the partners feel is missing in the area's restaurant lineup.
"We really are optimistic about P.F. Chang's here. We think from day one it's going to be a winner," McPhail said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com