A founding member of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine in 1991, Chef George Mavrothalassitis has long known the importance of supporting local food producers. A recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation award, Chef “Mavro” is well known in the nation’s top culinary circles.
Always Buy Local
Chef cooks with the philosophy: “always buy the best and freshest, buy local, treat all products with great respect and start afresh every season with new ideas and creative recipes.” A native of the French port of Marseilles, Chef grew up hearing the passionate calls of fishmongers and tasting the farm-fresh flavors of southern France.
“Sometimes buying local means the cost is higher and sometimes it takes more time but the reward is huge,” shares Chef Mavro. “Local farmers succeed and my guests enjoy fresh, regional ingredients and a dining experience they could only have in Hawai’i.”
Today, Chef is at the helm of the acclaimed Chef Mavro restaurant in Honolulu, where the menu changes four times a year. A recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award in both 2009 and 2010, Chef Mavro restaurant is ranked one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in the World” by Fodor’s. It’s a “must” dining experience on O’ahu.
In addition to grass-fed beef, Chef serves grass-fed wagyu beef at his restaurant. Wagyu beef is from cattle that are genetically predisposed to produce meat with intense marbling, resulting in a rich, juicy flavor. Typical to other breeds of cattle fed-and-finished on grass, grass-fed wagyu is better for you-it contains a higher percentage of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Wagyu’s increased marbling, which is high in monounsaturated fats, may actually help people lower their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while raising their “good” HDL levels.
Taste Cooking Demo
Chef Mavro will do a Cooking Grass-Fed Beef 101 seminar at this year’s Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Time is 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The fee is $10 and attendees will receive a takeaway recipe for creating it at home. The evening Taste extravaganza is 6-8 p.m. Buy tickets for the evening Taste and cooking demo.
Q & A with Chef Mavro
We caught up with chef recently to get one of his fave recipes for using grass-fed beef: Beef Short Rib with Puree of Celery Root. We got to chatting and asked him about using local products, including grass-fed beef…
Q: Why do you like using grass-fed beef?
Chef: I like to support the local economy, number one. And I like the taste.
Q: How do you prepare grass-fed beef at Chef Mavro restaurant?
Chef: We like very much to use grass-fed beef for braised short ribs. We cook it in stock and wine at very low temperature for 3.5 hours. It’s delicious. I braise it this way because braising is the traditional way to cook short ribs. Braising this cut makes the meat tender and the marinade gives it a fantastic flavor.
Q: Is your wagyu beef 100% grass-fed? Where do you get it from and why do you like it?
Chef: Our wagyu beef is grass-fed and from Australia. I like it because of the flavor, the tenderness-you can cut it with a fork-and considering the size of the wagyu, it has some of the best marbling in the world.
Q: You point out several Big Island products on your menu, can you share who they are?
Chef: We use 75 percent of Big Island ingredients in our menus… Hirabara baby greens, hearts of palm, Hamakua mushrooms, Hawaiian Vanilla, Big Island Goat Cheese, Volcano Island honey, and from NELHA: abalone, Kona Cold lobster, sablefish, and our newest offering, Kona Kea Shrimp, which we’re very excited about right now.
Q: Can you share any good experiences working direct with Big Isle food providers?
Chef: Yes, yes, yes… always a great experience and such wonderful products. They’ve all become my friends and I go by their farms whenever I can. I share their stories with our waiters during their pre-service briefings and they pass on those stories to our guests who are very interested in knowing about the source of our ingredients. We brand local ingredients on our menus and our guests really pay attention to what they are eating. And in the last few years so many like to take photos of their plates before they eat! And they go online from their table to post photos and comment on their experience during dinner. This spreads the word about local farms to millions of people!
Q: How many years have you been a participating chef at Taste? Can you share any experiences using different cuts of meats? Did you learn anything?
Chef: I’ve been involved with Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range since the late 1990s…it’s my favorite event. I got tripe (stomach) one year, which was OK because I love tripe and I did a Filipino tripe stew. One year I was assigned a whole goat and I used a navarin recipe (French lamb stew with turnips, onions, potatoes and carrots-”navet” is French for “turnip”). It was the first time that I cooked a whole goat in my life and I was suspicious about the result…but it was fantastic.