In an effort to be sustainable, Ikaika Manaku has fostered relationships with Maui farmers, ranchers and fishermen whose efforts have allowed him to maintain a menu that is 80 percent local. A proponent of the “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.” mantra, Manaku discusses the future of agri-tourism on Maui.
A Maui County ballot initiative to temporarily ban genetically engineered crops narrowly passed during the November midterm elections. Where do you stand on this anti-GMO moratorium?
We needed to put restrictions on the use of pesticides. I think everyone is now headed in the right direction.
As a chef, how important is agri-tourism to you?
We talk of sustainability and the farm-to-table concept, and the only way to achieve this is to work with local farmers, fishermen and ranchers. It’s our kuleana (responsibility) to make sure that we support them.
Does agri-tourism have an impact on restaurants?
Absolutely. It allows chefs to approach farmers and ask them if they could grow certain vegetables or herbs. Before it was the farmer telling us what they could and couldn’t grow.
What do you see as the future for agri-tourism?
I think it will continue to grow. I like to deal with real issues and I like to turn negatives into positives. I’m excited to see what happens in five years. A lot has already changed since I started here in Aug. 2010. There certainly has been more farming and chefs are sourcing their ingredients closer to home.