Category: Winter 2014

Cooking Fresh: Mark “Gooch” Noguchi Goes Raw – on Two Islands

Story by Catherine E. Toth
Photos by Megan Suzuki (on O‘ahu) & Sean M. Hower (on Maui)

Edible Hawaiian Islands sent one local chef on assignment into foreign territory: a vegan boot camp in the kitchens of two female-run eateries. It didn’t take long for him to feel the beet.

“I know this is a natural food store, but is there any caffeine in here?”

Gooch at Choice Maui

And that’s how Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, local chef and commentator for the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats,” walked into Kale’s Natural Foods in Hawai‘i Kai.

If you know him, you wouldn’t be surprised. Noguchi is comfortable anywhere, even in a super cramped kitchen in the back of a health food store deli that specializes in vegan and vegetarian dishes.

This is not Noguchi’s element.

Not that the formally trained chef isn’t into health food. Noguchi, who grew up in both Mānoa and Hilo eating mostly traditional washoku (Japanese home-cooking), has experimented with cleanses, vegan food, juicing and the raw diet. These are just not techniques he uses often — or professionally.

“I happen to know vegan and raw is not just rabbit food,” says Noguchi, who recently opened LUNCH BOX to provide the Hawaiian Airlines staff with healthy locally sourced meals. “But a lot of local people think that. They think it’s only lettuce, and that’s not true.”

And that’s certainly not true at the deli at Kale’s, where sisters Jennifer and Christina Hee have built a reputation for serving delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes that have garnered loyal followers who stop by every day to see what the pair is whipping up in the kitchen.

Dishes like a wild mushroom risotto or a healthy loco moco with a beet burger served over organic spinach, brown rice and quinoa with mushroom gravy.

“There’s a misconception that vegan food doesn’t taste good or is bland,” Noguchi says.

Gooch in an ApronNoguchi donned an apron — he actually put on a hot pink paisley one from the sisters’ collection first before pulling out his own — and got to work, learning from Jennifer how to use ingredients like organic spelt flour, coconut oil and vegan butter.

There’s no professional mixers or commercial convection ovens here. The Hees use an induction burner and a home oven for their dishes, mixing by hand and eyeballing most of their ingredients. They aren’t professionally trained, but what they make is prepared deftly and passionately.

“I’m so impressed by their spontaneity and their energy,” Noguchi says afterward. “There’s a lot of love in that kitchen. I felt the warm fuzzies.”

Noguchi helped prepare the deli’s popular polenta with local kale and vegan sausage made with beets, apples, beans and tapioca. The vegan polenta is pan-seared, then sautéed with the vegan sausage, red onions, red bell peppers, Portobello mushrooms, organic apples, garlic-roasted beets and locally grown kale — with a few other secret ingredients. It was full of flavor and texture.

“This style of cooking isn’t something that’s really taught in culinary school,” says the graduate of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Culinary Institute of America. “But it should be.”

Noguchi, who has worked with the farm-to-table advocates at Town in Kaimukī and at Chef Mavro, has long been a believer in sustainable cuisine. He has supported like-minded local chefs and food producers at his pop-up venue TASTE in Kaka‘ako, but had never, himself, used the kind of ingredients and techniques he learned with the Hee sisters.

Like using beets and organic spelt to make vegan chocolate cupcakes. Or swapping butter with coconut oil or a vegan substitute made with soy (and tastes a lot like cheese). Or using an egg replacement made from tapioca and potato starch. Or that cane sugar isn’t necessarily vegan.

“Man, this is good stuff,” he says, tasting the beet frosting he made to accompany the vegan cupcakes. “This is really cool.”

His new perspective on cleaning cooking was only reinforced on his recent visit to Choice Health Bar in Lahaina.

Choice Health Bar in Lahaina, MauiOwned by best friends Emily Kunz and Kathryn Dahm, Choice is a bustling café that resembles a trendy coffee shop minus the coffee. Instead of lattes, it serves a variety of innovative smoothies, açaí bowls, juices and health elixirs that use seasonal fresh produce from Maui, superfoods and almond milk and coconut water made in-house.

With omiyage (gifts) in hand, Noguchi walked into lively café and couldn’t believe how much work goes into creating the thoughtful raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes Kunz and Dahm come up with.

“They are so innovative, it was cool,” Noguchi says. “And they’ve got a freaking following. I was helping them prep and I saw people in there, waiting 45 minutes to an hour before (the café) opened for lunch. They crank.”

Its popularity comes from the interesting dishes Kunz and Dahm serves, using whatever local produce they can find— Kunz actually drives to farms on Maui to pick up ingredients.

“Our menu changes daily based on what’s available,” Dahm says. “Our focus is on local and fresh… It’s about pure food. The less you do to it, the better. You can cut an avocado in half and it’s a five-star meal.”

And they really do use whatever’s on hand, from romanesco broccoli to kohlrabi to heirloom carrots. They even have customers who bring in fruits and veggies — like oranges and figs — from their backyards.

While its menu is mostly smoothies, juices and açaí bowls, Choice does serve full-on meals like a raw falafel wrap with a Peruvian olive tapenade and a cashew tzatziki sauce, a robust Mediterranean kale salad with an herbal-infused lemon vinaigrette, a sunflower-walnut burger with raw ketchup and bee pollen “cheese” on a collard leaf, as well as a variety of soups.

That day, Noguchi helped prep what the friends jokingly refer to as the “two-day entrée” — the HI Vibe Pad Thai dish. It’s a play on the Thai noodle dish, except this is made with green papaya, carrots, red bell peppers, daikon and other veggies julienned to look like noodles. The dish was topped with an almond ginger sauce and coconut-ginger black forbidden rice.

“They were telling me, ‘You know, don’t worry if you can’t finish it because it’s a three-day prep for us,’ and I was, like, ‘No way. I’m banging out this entire thing,’” Noguchi says, laughing.

And he did.

He saw firsthand how much work and effort it took to make a healthy dish appealing to people who might not be familiar with vegan or raw cuisine.

“They think like chefs,” Noguchi says about Kunz and Dahm, neither of them professional trained. “They think about the way food feels in your mouth, about balance… It was really impressive.”

In both kitchens, Noguchi learned something he joked he would steal for his own restaurant concept. He was thinking about making a beet foam or an Asian dressing using raw almonds and maybe adding blenders and juicers to his kitchen. He realizes how, once you cut into an ingredient, you change it. And he knows that anything, even kohlrabi, can taste good. You just gotta work at it.

“How we look at food now is radically different than five years ago,” he says. “We’re stepping away from white rice and mac salad. It’s changed, it’s evolved. It was nice to be in kitchens that weren’t staffed by my team or by professional cooks. And it was all women. I never did see more passion than in those two kitchens.”


Simple Sauerkraut Recipe


Photos by Monica Schwartz
The basic recipe comes together quickly and is easily customized to different tastes and the seasonal availability of vegetables. Growing up with German heritage, chef Alyssa Moreau of Divine Creations. and her family traditionally ate sauerkraut on mashed potatoes with Bratwursts and mustard.
“It adds a nice tang and crunch and balances out the plate,” she says. Her recommendation: add a few tablespoons to a meal once a day.
Course: Side Dish
Author: Alyssa Moreau


  • Storage Jars(i.e. Mason Jars)
  • Knife
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Zip-Close Baggie
  • Weight(i.e. Smaller Jar To Place in Jar Opening Or Something Similar)


  • 2½ lbs. Vegetables of Choice
  • Tbs. Sea Salt
  • 2-4 tsp. Dried Spices And Herbs (Optional, Add More If Fresh, Add To Taste)


Gather Ingredients.

  • Plan your ingredients and flavors. For this recipe, we used green and purple cabbage, kale, carrot, and radish. For flavor, we added fresh dill, flat-leaf parsley, ginger, and dried bay leaves.

Prepare Vegetables.

  • Chop, slice, or grate your vegetables.

Mix Ingredients.

  • Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and spices, if using.
  • Massage well with your hands for several minutes, about 3-5. This breaks down the cellular structure of the vegetables, helping to release liquids.

Tamp Vegetables.

  • Begin packing the vegetable mixture into your sterilized jars, tamping down as you fill. Your aim is to release any air pockets and to have your vegetable mixture covered with a good layer of brine. Leave at least an inch of space for expansion at the top.

Seal and Store.

  • Stuff a zip-close baggie down into the jar on top of the vegetable/brine mixture. To seal, fold baggie back over the lid of the jar.
  • Place a weight inside the baggie in the jar opening, this can be a smaller jar filled with water or rice. This weight continues to press air out of the jar as the fermentation process takes place.
  • Store jars in a cool, dark place for about four days. Fermentation time varies widely depending on factors like outside temperature, jar size, types of vegetables, and taste. Place jars in a shallow pan as liquids may release out of jars as the fermentation process occurs.
  • Check your jars daily after the fourth day to see if you have achieved the desired flavor and tang. At this point, remove the weighted jar and baggies and replace them with the jar’s matching lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Sterilize the jars you plan to use.
Cocoa Pods, Cacao

What is it? How do you eat it?

Cocoa Pods, Cacao

Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is also known as a cacao tree or cocoa tree, grows to about 13-25’ in size and is part of the Malvacaeae family. It is native to the deep tropical regions on Central and South America including Hawai’i. In fact, Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows cacao commercially.

The small flowers bloom in clusers that form into pods that grow directly on the trunk. The seeds inside the pods once mature are picked then fermented and dried and finally roasted. Then ground to make cocoa powder and finally chocolate, although bitter without the addition of sugar or other sweetners.

From the pulp a fermented drink is made that has been called “elixir to the gods” and cacao is packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine.

Chocolate can be used in sweet or savory dishes. From the roasted cocao nibs sprinkled on a salad or ground power added to soups & sauces. The end result can be made into works of confectionary art.


A Kraut Shout-Out: Sauerkraut to Make at Home

Photos by Monica Schwartz

Rainbow Sauerkraut by Alyssa MoreauIncorporating fermented foods into our daily diet is a good idea anytime, and especially after the holidays when we’ve taxed our system with rich foods.

To demonstrate how simple it is to create beautiful home-made sauerkraut, we called on private vegetarian chef Alyssa Moreau of Divine Creations.

The basic recipe comes together quickly and is easily customized to different tastes and seasonal availability of vegetables. Growing up with a German heritage, Alyssa and her family traditionally ate sauerkraut on mashed potatoes with Bratwursts and mustard.

Now, as a vegetarian, she loves it tossed into a simple salad or mixed with tahini and used as a sauce for cooked vegetables and grains.

“It adds a nice tang and crunch and balances out the plate,” she says. Her recommendation: add a few tablespoons to a meal once a day.

Recipe: Simple Sauerkraut

Alyssa is brewing up a fun, “Ferment for Health” class at CookSpace Hawaii on February 8th. She’ll cover this recipe and others, demonstrating home fermentation recipes and their health properties. To register, visit or call (808) 695-2205.

Keiki in the Kitchen: After School Snack with Maui Mom Sarah Burns

Photo by Jana Morgan

“When I pick my kids up from school, they’re always hungry!” laughs Sarah Burns, professional blogger of The ‘Ohana Mama. “There’s usually an activity to rush off to, but a few days a week we go straight home and can make a proper snack.”

Making bagel pizzas are the standing favorite with her kids, Cameron, 9, and Leah, 6, mostly because they can do everything themselves (and the gooey cheese doesn’t hurt, either!) They love how hands on it is.

Cooking together is something the family is doing more of.

“Leah loves to be in the kitchen with me, helping to cut vegetables, stirring bowls, she loves to get her hand dirty,” says Sarah. “They’re my sous chefs.”

“My kids, like many kids, don’t really like vegetables. I find when the kids participate in preparing and cooking their own food it helps with making it a positive experience and they usually end up eating some vegetables.”

Sarah Burns started The ‘Ohana Mama ( in 2008 to focus on family life in the islands. Her “parenting dispatches from Maui” happen while scrambling to and from swimming, gymnastics, or simply shell hunting at the beach.

Sarah Burns - Keiki in the Kitchen

Recipe Wave: Ruby Red Martini Cocktail by Sangrita Bar & Grill



Photo by Sean Michael Hower
This cocktail is a great use for seasonal citrus and is guaranteed to brighten up any winter day (or night!). Like sunshine in a martini glass, this drink offers divine floral notes, a pucker of citrus, and a hint of bubbly that meets the lips with every sip.
We think the mixologists at the Sangrita Bar & Grill Restaurant in Ka‘anapali, Maui must have crafted this martini with a day at the beach in mind.
Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 Person


  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Strainer


  • 2 oz. Organic Ocean Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germaine
  • 5 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 oz. Sparkling Wine
  • Twist Of Grapefruit Skin As Garnish


  • Shake the first three ingredients with ice, strain into a martini glass, and top with a float of sparkling wine.
  • Garnish and enjoy!
    Ruby Red Martini Photo by Sean Michael Hower

Letter of Aloha – Winter 2014

Dania Katz, Publisher, edible Hawaiian IslandsSome people live to eat, while others eat to live. Many of us do both. Now that a new year is upon us, it is time again to tune into our bodies and focus on the nourishment that keeps us humming along on a radiant frequency. This issue we take an amazing journey throughout Hawai‘i and beyond to explore the stories that reveal a connection between the food we eat and how we feel.

Years ago, I went through a time when food healed me. Battling cancer, my body and spirit were depleted from chemo and radiation therapy. Knowing that I needed to eat, a friend would bring me raw food meals. From them I felt life returning to my body. The experience was profound; I had discovered that food is medicine.

But how do we eat to live? Award-winning organic chef and author, Renée Loux, shares with us the very foundation of cooking and eating well. Her advice? A well-stocked pantry (and she’s very thorough.) Macrobiotic chef and life coach, Leslie Ashburn, shares a simple game plan for optimal health—nothing drastic, she insists! I’m honored to have these women’s clear, strong voices in the magazine.

To explore the topic further we sent Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, a classically trained chef who has worked in many of O‘ahu’s top restaurants, out on a vegan “boot camp” to apprentice in different raw/ vegan kitchens. What he experiences opens his eyes to a new food paradigm, one where health and vitality are as much of a priority in preparing a meal as taste or presentation.

We all love to eat, which is why we had to share what Jeff Scheer is doing. This young, talented Maui chef is inviting folks to pull up a chair in his commercial kitchen for an experiential meal painstakingly created with locally procured ingredients. If you are passionate about local food, or simply love to eat, this is an experience that will indulge your senses.

Read, eat and enjoy. I wish you a very healthy, happy 2014.

Dania Katz



Dania Katz

Build a Raw Pantry: Nine foods to keep stocked for natural, gourmet meals

Story by Renée Loux

The best way to conjure up a great meal at the drop of a hat is to make sure your pantry is stocked with the right ingredients. With the right long-lasting staples on-hand, you can take advantage of foods that are fresh in season, try out new recipes without extensive shopping, or pull together a delicious meal with whatever is in your fridge.

Here are nine pantry staples to enhance a multitude of meals:


GingerFlavor: Warm, spicy, bitter, sweet
Aroma: Refreshing, woody undertones, sweet citrus overtones
Benefits: Ginger increases circulation, improves digestion and assimilation of nutrients, has anti-inflammatory properties and strengthens immunity.
Buying and Storing: Young ginger has a thin, pale skin and tender, milder and less fibrous flesh; Mature ginger has a tougher skin that generally requires peeling. Look for smooth skin and a fresh, spicy fragrance. To keep ginger fresh for up to three weeks, store in a zip-top bag or sealed container in the fridge.
How to use it: Peel and mince finely to add to dishes. Peel, chop and blend into dressings, marinades, sauces and soups. To extract ginger juice, peel, finely grate and squeeze.

2. NAMA SHOYU (unpasteurized soy sauce)

Flavors: Salty, savory, umami
Aroma: Deep, complex, savory
Benefits: Shoyu is traditionally brewed soy sauce that is aged in wooden casks for several months to several years, which converts soy’s complex proteins and starches into easy to digest nutrients. Nama shoyu is unpasteurized and abundant in healthy microorganisms such as Lactobacillus, which aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients, and help balance intestinal ecology.
Buying and Storing: Look for “shoyu” rather than soy sauce to ensure it is traditionally brewed and cultured, which yields a more robust flavor (and to dodge chemical extraction and solvents used in commercial products). Look for “organic” or “GMO-free” products because most conventional soy products contain genetically modified ingredients. Store nama shoyu in the fridge after opening and it will keep indefinitely.
How to use it: Use nama shoyu as you would use soy sauce to enhance marinades, dressings and sauces.


Flavors: Dynamic, salty, tart, fruity
Aroma: Bright, clean, mildly tangy
Benefits: Umeboshi plum vinegar is the brine from pickling umeboshi plums (it’s not technically a vinegar because it’s not fermented and it contains salt). Its alkaline minerals balance the body and are highly valued to aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients. With a dynamic flavor, it boosts and enhances the flavors of a wide variety of other foods, herbs and spices.
Buying and Storing: Look for umeboshi plum vinegar that does not contain preservatives or colorants. Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge. Keeps indefinitely.
How to use it: Add to dressings, marinades, sauces and soups to boost salty, bright flavors. Sprinkle on steamed or sautéed vegetable or cooked grains. Umeboshi plum vinegar can be used instead of fish sauce, though the flavor is fruitier and lighter (just be sure to adjust the salt in the dish as umeboshi plum vinegar is quite salty).


LemonsFlavors: Tart, sour, bright
Aroma: Clean, zesty, sweet overtones
Benefits: Lemons are acidic in taste, but alkaline-forming in the body and help restore the body’s pH balance. They’re loaded with immune-boosting Vitamin C, citric acid and antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and renew the body and skin. Valued as a digestive aid and liver cleanser, lemons also have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Buying and Storing: Look for lemons that are firm, yet yield a bit when squeezed. Avoid fruit with soft spots and discoloration. Hard lemons can be ripened on the counter for a few days and stored at room temperature for about a week, or in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
How to use it: Add a squeeze of lemon juice to water when blanching veggies to retain bright colors. Try adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the water used to cook rice to prevent it from becoming sticky. Grated lemon zest has a bright, concentrated lemon flavor to add zip to sweet and savory dishes.


SaltBenefits: Unrefined sea salts are alkaline-forming in the body. They are a valuable source of trace minerals, which aid the immune system, as well as electrolytes that maintain hydration and support nerve and muscle function. The best sea salts are dried by the sun or at low temperatures to preserve precious elements, minerals and delicate flavors, whereas refined table salt is devoid of minerals and may contain additives such as aluminum silicate and chlorine derivatives for a uniform white color.

Types of Sea Salts:

  • Celtic Sea Salt: This pure, naturally moist pale grey sea salt is hand-harvested from Brittany, France and sun-dried using traditional methods that date back 2,000 years. Available in coarse and fine grind for a clean taste and delicate finish.
  • Hawaiian Red Sea Salt: This burnt-crimson colored salt is infused with the legendary, medicinal red ‘Alae clay of Hawaii and has a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt: This glistening, charcoal colored salt is infused with lava rock for a complex flavor and mineral finish.
  • Himalayan Crystal Salt: This rosy, pink colored salt is harvested from salt veins in the Himalayan mountains from sea salt beds that are 250,000 million years old (yes, really). The crystals are very dense and intensely salty so a little goes a long way. Himalayan salt is available in fine and coarse grind.
  • Maldon Sea Salt: This flaky salt from the UK’s North Sea has a delicate, pyramid-shaped crystal that provides a salty crunch for finishing a dish.
  • Smoked Sea Salts: These salts are naturally smoked over wood fires to infuse a deep, distinctive smoky aroma and flavor. Look for natural smoked salts that do not contain artificial flavors.


BalsamicFlavors: Pungent, sweet, tangy (the older, the smoother and sweeter it is)
Aroma: Pithy, piquant overtones, sweet undertones (the older, the more complex the bouquet)
Benefits: Balsamic vinegar is mineral-rich and loaded with antioxidants, which counter free radical damage and also help the body digest and absorb proteins. Aged balsamic vinegar is more mellow and sweet and lends a complex flavor to balance and boost recipes.
Buying and Storing: Look for balsamic vinegar that has been aged at least 10 years (and up to 25 years) and has a thick, syrupy consistency. Usually, the longer it is aged, the thicker the consistency (because more water has evaporated from it) and the deeper, sweeter and more complex the flavor.
How to use it: Aged balsamic lends complex flavor to dressings, marinades, sauces and grilled foods. Try a drizzle of it over strawberries or pineapple for a surprisingly delicious complement of flavor.


Flavors: Buttery, mild to strong quintessential coconut flavor, slightly sweet
Aroma: Mild to strong scent, sweet, floral coconut
Benefits: Coconut oil is highly digestible and a great source of fuel for the body. Its medium-chain fatty acids boost metabolism and can be directly converted into energy by the body instead of being processed by the liver or stored as fat. Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid, which is great for the immune system. Plus, it’s an extremely stable oil that can hold up to cooking without breaking down and its rich, buttery texture and taste is incredibly satisfying.
Buying and Storing: “Virgin” coconut oil is naturally extracted without heat and has a stronger coconut scent and taste, which works well in recipes that the flavor will compliment. Refined coconut oil has a milder flavor and aroma, which is suitable for a wider array of recipes, including baking and sautéing. Just be sure to look for coconut oil that has been expeller-pressed without the use of chemical solvents, and which doesn’t contain hydrogenated oils.
How to use it: Coconut oil is a delicious plant-based alternative to butter. It acts just like butter – semisolid at room temperature, solid in the fridge – with a delectable, buttery texture that works well in both savory and sweet foods. It can also be used the same way as other oils, such as olive oil or grapeseed oil, in dressings, marinades and sauces.


MisoFlavors: Salty, savory, umami; varies with type of miso; some sweeter, some stronger
Aroma: Rich, complex, nutty, sweet
Benefits: Miso is a probiotic-rich food that aids digestion and assimilation of nutrients and balances intestinal ecology. It’s an enzyme-rich fermented food that is easily digestible by the body and known to boost the immune system and help the body process toxins. Plus, its deep, full-bodied flavor enhances many dishes with complex, umami taste.
Buying and Storing: Lighter colored miso is sweeter, milder and less salty than darker colored miso. Look for some of the most exceptional, locally produced miso at the Kula farmer’s market on Maui. Miso should be stored in the fridge and will keep indefinitely.
How to use it: Traditional miso soup is a familiar association, but miso is a delicious addition to other soups as well as in marinades, dressings and sauces. The enzymes and probiotics in miso are sensitive to heat, so keeping it below 150˚F will ensure maximum health benefits.


Flavors: Sweet; varies with type of honey; lighter honey is mild and floral, darker honey is more complex with hints of malt and molasses
Aroma: Distinct honey scent; varies with type of honey; flowery, fruity, caramel
Benefits: Honey contains all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and a high concentration of minerals and nutrients, including B-complex vitamins. Raw honey is rich in enzymes, friendly bacteria and antioxidants, plus antibacterial and anti-viral properties; and unfiltered raw honey contains small amounts of bee pollen and propolis, which boost the immune system and protect the body. The bee pollen in local honey may even help thwart seasonal allergies.
Buying and Storing: Look for raw honey that has not been pasteurized or heated; it will have the most flavor and the most benefits for the body. Local honey is the most valuable and sustainable choice to support local farmers.
How to use it: Raw honey is best used at low temperatures (high temperatures will destroy many of its precious properties). Use raw honey for savory and sweet dishes as an alternative to sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar.


The Beauty of Whole Foods: Andaz Maui at Wailea’s ‘Awili Spa

In creating a concept for the spa at the new Andaz Maui at Wailea, the team looked no further than the kitchen.

Story by Sara Smith
Photos by Mieko Hoffman

Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea
Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea

No sign, no registration barricade—just an open room centering around a large, welcoming island. Bar stools entice: sit, stay awhile. It is what’s on the countertop that intrigues one to do so, neat rows of apothecary jars full of colors and textures. What is this stuff? Where am I?

Hyatt’s boutique Andaz brand opened its twelfth location worldwide on Maui last September.

The contemporary 297-room resort was built from the ground up on 15 oceanfront acres in the luxury Wailea Resort. Conscientious of guest experience, environmental accountability, and innovation, volumes of consideration went into planning and constructing the LEED-certified resort, the first of its kind in Hawai‘i.

As a brand, Andaz acts as a sponge soaking up the cultures, textures, tastes and personality of its surroundings. They turn to their staff, whom they view and empower as hired professionals, to interpret these traits and accentuate their core values. For the signature ‘Awili spa on Maui, this meant transforming a loose “apothecary lounge” concept into a full-blown spa kitchen. And the menu changes daily.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary Lounge“It started with oil infusions and catapulted from there,” begins Katie Foster. She and Teresa Blackwell were hired months before opening to develop the concept at ‘Awili, which is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘to mix, blend, entwine.’ The two form the spa’s apothecary consultant team and are directly responsible for the contents of all those enticing jars on the counter.

Taking a tip from the resort chefs, the spa team immediately got out to meet their local farmers. Fresh-picked herbs were harvested in Kula and sent through the spa’s trusty dehydrator. When pulverized with mortar and pestle, these dried herbs released scents so vibrant, the women were compelled to experiment with a wider range of ingredients—all culinary grade, all locally sourced from the islands.

“It’s a little science, a little culinary, a little spa, a lot of fun,” summarizes Teresa. On one visit the team was giddy over a new collection of tinctures they’d created using tea concentrates suspended in local honey (a humectant and natural stabilizer, they tell me.) While traditional tinctures have an alcohol base, these are moisturizing—not to mention delicious.

Their excitement is infectious. Spa director Jackie Yulo, who has opened six spas for the company, is astounded with the growth and development at ‘Awili. She says the concept is being adopted by two new Andaz properties in Costa Rica and Tokyo.

Yulo keeps providing more room for the women to experiment. Although plumeria proved confounding, the team is eager to begin working with different limu (seaweed) once a trusted source can be found.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeA collaboration with the resort’s kitchen catapulted their vision for a food-based apothecary. From the Bar Lab, a room hidden deep in the kitchen where all cocktail mixes, juices and syrups are hand concocted, the women picked up fresh cucumber juice and more fodder for their dehydrator: citrus peels, jalapeño lees and fresh ginger fibers. The pungency of the spa team’s house-made ground ginger powder inspired the chef, now the kitchen is drying and grinding many of their own herbs and spices. They’re all vying for time in the commercial-grade, large capacity food dehydrator.

The culinary team reciprocates trade secrets, introducing them, for instance, to xanthan gum. With this plant-derived emulsifier and thickener the spa can spontaneously whip up amazing treatment gels, which they now offer.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeDuring my interview, a pool attendant came to Katie for help, concerned for a guest with a severe sunburn. I watched as a beautiful relief gel was whisked together of fresh cucumber juice, peppermint oil, chamomile, glycerin and a touch of xanthan gum. The custom blend was provided gratis to the guest, a level of service indicative of Andaz.

Spa treatments as nourishment, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation are rituals perfected over the ages. What ‘Awili does so well is draw upon the purity and simplicity of ancient wisdom. Vitamin C provides a natural sunscreen boost, so powdered citrus peels make for a smart addition to body treatments here in Hawai‘i. If a client comes in jet-lagged or hungover, a touch of jalapeño or cayenne powder may be recommended for the capsaicin, which is vaso-constricting and stimulates the lymphatic system. And the moisturizing properties of fresh, locally grown foods like kukui and macadamia nuts, coconut and avocado will beat any manufactured lotion, they’d bet. Katie nails it: “The treatments are actually feeding your skin.”

By sourcing the healing properties of whole foods, they’re able to nourish skin naturally without any pesky preservatives, parabens or other chemical additives. And, as drastic allergies become more prevalent, a program like this offers welcome transparency to the product used and the purity of its ingredients.

Not to mention, they can customize beyond expectation.

Back to all those glass jars on the counter. They are, as I discovered, a veritable mise en place for ‘Awili’s signature omakase spa experience, a Japanese concept meaning “faith in you.” The personalized experience begins with a consultation to discuss desired results, allergy concerns or specific ailments, a client’s intuition helps guide what their body needs and wants most. Teresa describes it as a time to touch and play. Out come tools like cutting boards, whisks, scoopers and more. Working together, custom treatment blends are created at the table—whole foods, purees, powders, oils and more adjusted until deemed perfect. It’s a long-proven fact that every party ends up in the kitchen, which could account for a large part of the fun at ‘Awili.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeThe type of massage dictates the viscosity of the blend they’ll make: a loose and slippery blend works best with the sweeping strokes of a lomilomi massage, while something that provides a little more grip is in order for deep-tissue work. Scrub textures can be soft (coconut flakes), medium (turbinado sugar), or coarse (sea salt). Scents and flavors (it’s all edible!) are chosen for desired effect or simply personal preference. Careful notes are taken for each client and for each recipe, so guests can request a repeat of a favorite treatment.

My omakase resulted in a scrub of both kosher and sea salt—used together for different textures—sage, basil and lavender powders, avocado oil and fresh avocado used as a binding agent. A dropper of essential oil was added, a blend of bergamot, basil, lemon, grapefruit and lavender. A special spot treatment was made for a small patch of eczema on my hand, a blend with calendula, chamomile mixed with one of the honey tinctures. I was sent home with extra to reapply later.

My massage blend consisted of ingredients I mostly had in my own kitchen: coconut milk, coconut oil and kukui and macadamia nut oils. To my delight, Teresa grabbed a nubby pink awapuhi flower (Hawaiian shampoo ginger) from the vase and squeezed its fresh, fragrant nectar into the blend. Instant bliss.

While each guest’s treatment may be deliciously different and each formulation unique, it’s clear that after experiencing the ‘Awili Spa, there is only one possible conclusion: Heaven.


Eat Well, Live Well: A Game Plan for Health with Chef Leslie Ashburn

O‘ahu-based macrobiotic chef and life coach, Leslie Ashburn, lays out a fail-safe game plan to live and feel better in the new year, one meal at a time.

Story by Leslie Ashburn
Photos and food styling by Ja Soon Kim

Now that the new year has arrived, it’s a perfect chance to set a healthful course for 2014 by reflecting on your diet and lifestyle. This year, “spring clean” early by focusing on the foods you eat and changing a few habits.

To undo the bad stuff (who didn’t splurge this past holiday season?), there are several gentle steps you can take to cleanse and detox. For the purposes of this article, this means aiding your body to release accumulated toxins and create the optimal conditions for your body’s organs to function most efficiently. The simple ways laid out for you here will naturally prepare your body and mind for success. My suggestions are meant for long-term, sustainable health — there are no magic bullets here. And, as you’ll see, cleansing can be gentle and actually quite delicious!

Diet Dos & Don’ts

First, DO take the middle path with your diet and DON’T go to extremes. Strict fasts (such as liquid-only diets) may produce short-term results. Their severity, however, often results in a yo-yo effect, sending people back and forth between overeating and not eating enough. If you greatly restrict your calories, it is inevitable that you’ll end up with a strong urge to binge. Situationally, a fast may be appropriate on a sojourn in the woods or while on a meditative yoga retreat, but for people who need to show up for a full-time job, parent, or who like to exercise, it is neither functional nor practical.

While it’s not healthy to overly restrict your diet, it is important to limit certain foods. DO avoid consumption of antibiotic- and hormone-laden animal foods, refined sugar, too much coffee, alcohol and anything containing nitrates, food colorings, preservatives and additives. If your goal is to clean up a polluted ocean, river or lake, it makes little sense to continue to dump toxins into it. In general, your best bet is to avoid anything processed. If it has gone through a factory of some kind, is in a box, a can or is pre-made, then it’s processed!

DO eat wholesome, nutritious regular meals three times per day to keep your blood sugar levels even. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed. Your liver and kidneys work their detox magic at night and need all available energy to do so. Dealing with a full stomach zaps energy from other organs, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish when you wake up.

DO switch your thinking. Sometimes overly concentrating on avoiding certain foods makes them even more tempting — like that chocolate cake in the fridge that you absolutely “shouldn’t” eat. Instead, turn your focus to adding new, amazingly healthful things into your daily diet.

The best possible diet you can adopt in order to rebalance and cleanse your body is a whole-food, plant-based diet with ingredients grown as close to the source as possible with organic farming methods. Eat this way as often as possible. This diet is easy for your body to digest, freeing up energy that would otherwise be spent trying to clean and filter your organs. It is also fills your system with good stuff — valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and more.

My suggestions for a whole-food, plant-based diet include: unrefined starches and whole grains, such as organic brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, sweet potatoes, taro and breadfruit; a wide variety of vegetables prepared in different ways, including root vegetables like burdock root (gobo), round vegetables like kabocha, and hardy, dark leafy greens like kale; beans and bean products; sea vegetables; naturally fermented vegetables like kimchee or sauerkraut; and lastly, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods are low in calories, high in fiber, and you can pretty much eat as much as you like.

You absolutely DON’T need to deprive yourself, ever! DON’T feel that you’re going to be eating sticks and rocks, either. There is a world of incredible food out there just waiting for you to discover! In fact, Forbes rated well-crafted vegan cuisine as one of the top trends of 2013.

Food is Medicine

While eating a variety of unrefined, plant-based foods is the most important thing you can do to give your system a rest and help it rebuild, it’s also important to know how foods affect your body. After all, food is medicine!

Easy first steps include adding the following items into your diet. First, homemade soups are an excellent way to fill up, not out (avoid adding too much sodium and fat). Soups are very gentle on your digestion, which can often be taxed due to overconsumption of the standard American diet. In particular, miso soup made from “unpasteurized” or “unrefined,” organic soybeans is an excellent way to build immunity, cleanse your blood and alkalinize your system.

Limu, or seaweed, is an often over-looked food that is rich in essential minerals. It helps your kidneys function well, and aids in removing heavy metals from your body. I highly recommend certified organic, in this case.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods aid digestion and help your liver in assimilating oily foods and fat. These are especially important for us to eat in the spring. Sour flavors are also great for cleaning out the liver, such as umeboshi plums (without MSG), and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Other fat-dissolving foods include daikon radish and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Kale and other dark leafy greens are what I consider the secret fountain of youth. In fact, in Oriental medicine, they are associated with spring cleansing and liver purification.

Kukicha tea is a full-bodied and flavorful tea (available in your local health food store) that is alkalinizing and cleansing to the blood.

Eat, Breathe, Rest

While food is a critical component in cleansing and detoxing, it’s just one piece of the health puzzle. Just as important is gentle exercise. Activities like gardening, yoga, or going for a walk, hike, surf, SUP or swim enable you to breathe in fresh air and sweat out toxins.

Lastly, practice a daily body scrub so that your skin, the largest organ in your body, can more easily release toxins. Pamper yourself with massages. Practice meditation. Turn off the TV or close the newspaper while you’re eating your meals (your entire environment is “food”). Get ample rest to allow your body to heal from stress.

“What do I have to look forward to?” you ask. The list is long: getting along better with your loved ones, easier weight management, clearer skin, deeper sleep, better moods, more energy, reduced cravings, and protection and healing from a wide variety of lifestyle-related illnesses.

Here’s to YOUR healthful 2014!

Leslie Ashburn is an internationally trained personal chef, educator, blogger and life coach. She is a Level 3 graduate of the Kushi International Extension Program in Osaka, Japan, mastering in “Samurai Macrobiotics,” a holistic approach to well-being. She loves challenging stereotypes about what it means to eat healthy.