“My passion is to serve great meals. The best way to do that is through the showcasing of Hawaii’s farms and ranches and the food they produce. ‘Fresh’ and ‘local’ are the two words which guide every decision we make at Merriman’s.” –Peter Merriman
Being a culinary pioneer, it has always been chef and businessman Peter Merriman’s goal to liven up the culinary industry in Hawaii. He arrived in Hawaii in the year 1983, secured a job as a cook in the luxurious Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, where he eventually became promoted as the executive chef of the Gallery Restaurant.
Mauna Lani became the setting for chef Merriman’s vision of pioneering the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine. He usually takes his work a step further in order to make sure of the quality and taste of his dishes. For example, he would climb high coconut tress to personally select the best coconuts for his spicy fish sauce. There was a time when he convinced a laundry truck driver to travel to the farthest side of the island, fetch him some “number 10” corn, which is a rare species but really very sweet.
Chef Merriman was the pioneer of popular Hawaiian dishes such as Poached Opakapaka with Snow Pea Puree and Ginger Lime Sauce, as well as Ono with Mango Sauce. He always sees to it that his ingredients all come from local sources. And because of this, his culinary expertise became very well respected and soared to higher levels.
Peter Merriman, along with his wife Vicky, then decided to open their own brand of upcountry restaurant, which became known as The Merriman’s Waimea. The famous Hawaiian airlines magazine, Hana Hou, has labelled the restaurant as “A gourmet in cowboy country.”
As his restaurant grew, he was able to strengthen his ties with local ranchers and farmers, thereby convincing them to new species of fruits and vegetables, as well as range-raised meats. This was so he can be able to directly purchase his ingredients from the farmers and ranchers, thereby ensuring their quality and freshness all the time. It didn’t take long before Waimea became known as the culinary crossroads for Hawaii Regional Cuisine.
For Peter, an authentic Hawaiian Cuisine can truly be experienced in his signature restaurant. He expressed that the way their meals are cooked enable the natural flavours of the food to come out. Using excessive flavourings disguises the food and causes confusion in your taste buds. Peter wanted the farmer’s products to be the center of attraction and not the elaborate food preparation. He wanted his guests to truly experience the genuine flavours of organic produce such as the Lokelani Farms vine-ripened tomatoes and the Hirabara Greens. Chef Peter has standardized the way meals are prepared in Hawaii, particularly in using at least 90% of locally produced products in their dishes, as well as using organically grown products.
Besides Merriman’s Waimea, Chef Peter was able to open up a restaurant named Hula Grill Maui in 1992 with the help of TS Restaurants. Up until this day, Peter still works as an operating partner of the said restaurant. November 2003 saw the opening of another restaurant brand named Merriman’s Market Cafe located at Waikoloa Beach Resort King’s shops on Hawaii’s Big Island. The cafe primarily offers coffee products in a casual and indoor/outdoor setting, as well as Mediterranean cuisine, which ranges from freshly made hummus in warm pitas to Moroccan tagine-roasted fresh island catch.