At Ka’ana Kitchen, at the Andaz Maui Resort at Wailea, chef de cuisine Isaac Bancaco has made Maui produce the star of his menu. Bancaco, who was voted 2014 Chef of the Year by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, makes his meals a celebration of the island where he was born, raised, and is proud to call home. Having cultivated relationships with growers and fishermen on the island, he cooks up seafood dishes such as Maui-caught snapper with forbidden rice or ahi tataki with heirloom tomatoes, burrata, and lilikoi (passion fruit). Or he brings homegrown Wagyu beef to the table with green papaya, Thai basil, and peanuts. On any given night, around 85 percent of the ingredients Bancaco cooks with come from right there on Maui.
“Sharing food with the people you love is a big part of traditional Hawaiian culture,” Bancaco says. He’s been putting that tradition into practice for many years, off island and on. Having studied at the Western Culinary Institute, in Portland, Oregon, Bancaco did an externship at chef and Food Network star Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Working his way up the line and perfecting his skills, he became sous chef and helped Tsai to a win against Bobby Flay during an Iron Chef America cook-off.
After four years at Blue Ginger, Bancaco did a stint at fellow Hawaiian Roy Yamaguchi’s L.A. outpost of his Honolulu-based restaurant Roy’s and then headed back to Maui as chef de cuisine for the Grand Wailea Resort’s Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a Restaurant. There, he began to dig deep into what it means to be not just a cook but a Hawaiian cook. And in 2013, he joined the opening team at Ka’ana Kitchen. Says Andaz executive chef Brent Martin, “Isaac is the poster child of a revolution of chefs who are promoting Maui as a cultural destination driven by food.”