How Master Chef Peter Merriman is Bringing Farm-To-Table to the Masses
His mission is sourcing as much as he can from local Hawaii farmers and producers.
Every restaurant that award-winning chef Peter Merriman has opened in the Islands—from the laid-back Merriman’s in Waimea nestled amid ranches on Hawaii Island to the bustling Merriman’s Honolulu that opened last year in one of Oahu’s most vibrant new neighborhoods—has one very important thing in common. And it’s come to define him for more than three decades now.
Merriman is committed to using as many local ingredients as possible in all of his restaurants, building deep and personal relationships with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen that transcend business. There are farmers who grow produce exclusively for him. There are ranchers who consider him a friend. And there are chefs who will say there’s no one in the industry who embraces the whole farm-to-table movement as wholly as him.
“[Peter] really wants to preserve Hawaii, to make sure this place, in his small contribution, is here for generations to enjoy,” says Neil Murphy, Merriman’s corporate chef who moved from New York City to work at the Wailea restaurant in 2006. “He really believes that, and he walks the walk, which is cool.”
Up until last year, Oahu was the only island that didn’t have a Merriman’s restaurant. He first opened in Waimea in 1987, then Merriman’s Kapalua on Maui in 2008 and Merriman’s Fish House on Kauai in 2009. The Pittsburgh-born chef spent more than 20 years looking for the right spot for his high-end brand on Oahu. (With partners, Merriman runs the more casual Monkeypod Kitchen in Ko Olina and Moku Kitchen in Kakaako, both on Oahu.)
Then he toured the burgeoning neighborhood of Kakaako, just minutes outside of Waikiki, brimming with luxury high-rises and trendy boutiques and restaurants. Immediately, he knew this was the perfect spot—still close to Waikiki but in a hip area that was only going to grow. He opened his first Merriman’s on Oahu here, on the ground floor of the luxe 40-story Anaha (which means “reflections of light” in Hawaiian) condo. The restaurant’s entrance is beneath the building’s glass-bottom pool that juts out about 15 feet and is suspended 80 feet in the air. “I really love this neighborhood,” Merriman says. “I love the vibe.”