The below post was originally posted on Ward Village's blog, and can be found online here:
Only a few decades ago, a local-first approach to dining was practically unheard of in the islands. Scant regard was given to sourcing locally-grown produce, fruits, and meats.
Historically, big ag organizations producing sugarcane and pineapple dominated the landscape in the islands and the vast majority of the food we consumed was shipped to the state from thousands of miles away. In an alarming fact, on average, most of the food consumed in America travels more than 1,500 miles before arriving at a local supermarket, but in Hawai'i 85 to 90 percent of our food is imported and has an average travel distance of 4,500 miles.
Enter Peter Merriman, a young, ambitious chef who had the foresight to change the game. When Merriman opened his first restaurant in 1988 in Waimea in the Big Island, his vision for producing regional cuisine, forged from locally sourced ingredients, proved groundbreaking. In its early days, Merriman was so determined to work with local farmers, that he told them, "If you grow it or catch it...I'll buy it." The result, paired with Merriman's expert approach in the kitchen, laid the framework for a food revolution that garnered worldwide praise. As it turns out, our food tastes better when it's fresh. And when we support local farms, we do our part to strengthen our economy and wean ourselves off dependence from the mainland.
However, Merriman's approach to creating a more positive and sustainable restaurant didn't end with his relationships to local farmers. With a simple but beautiful mantra to "Do the Right Thing" for the land, the community and guests, Merriman has become one of the most successful restaurateurs in the state. Fast-forward to today and Peter Merriman is proud to be known as the pioneer of the Hawai'i Regional Cuisine Movement and in the not-too-distant future, he's opened a new location right here at Ward Village.
His latest concept (located on the ground floor of the Anaha residential tower) is a reflection of all the values that have made his restaurants so successful. Led by executive chef Jon Matsubara, the new restaurant includes a 6,000 square foot space with an expansive 1,800 square foot lanai, perfect for soaking in the sunset while enjoying your dinner. Under the watchful eye of Chef Matsubara, guests will find a plethora of delicious concoctions on the menu, including their famous lobster pot pie and cast-iron chicken.
Step into their expansive new space and you'll see the end result of Merriman's original vision played out in a beautiful, urban setting. Nearly three decades later, the farm-to-table movement has become a central element in forming Hawaii's modern culinary identity and we're thrilled to welcome Merriman's into the Ward Village ohana. The locavore has set down new roots.