Seascape, the award-winning restaurant at Maui Ocean Center, participated in the inaugural Restaurant Week fundraiser for Grow Some Good, a Maui-based nonprofit organization known for its garden-based education experiences.
Funds raised support the group’s Farm to School and Community Food Systems programs. That includes bringing participating chefs, such as Seascape’s Executive Chef Henry Tariga, to school gardens so they can lead culinary demonstrations and volunteer workdays.
“Our ‘āina is what sustains us all. It must be protected and cultivated for future generations,” Tariga says. “From cultivating the land, we learn techniques that can be taught to our keiki so that dependency on foreign crops is not as necessary as it is today.”
With his commitment to a sustainable Maui, Tariga hand selects fresh fish from Māʻalaea Harbor’s local fisherman, grass-fed protein from island ranches and canoe crops from area farmers.
Many of Seascape’s dishes feature “canoe crops,” or plants originally brought via canoe to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian voyagers. For example, ‘ulu (breadfruit) is featured in everything from appetizers (Upcountry ‘Ulu Hummus) to dessert (Mocha ‘Ulu Pie). A recent addition to the menu is the Moloka‘i Venison Burger served with kalo (taro) fries.
Seascape will serve a sampling of canoe plants, including kalo and ‘uala (sweet potato), as part of Maui Ocean Center’s new Hawaiian Culture and Plant Tour.
The tour is a multi-sensory experience: not only will participants taste an assortment of crops originally brought to Hawai‘i by Polynesian settlers, but they will also smell the subtle fragrance of the pōhinahina leaf and recite ʻōlelo noʻeau (Hawaiian proverbs).
Additionally, participants will use papa ku’i ‘ai (poi pounding boards) and pohaku ku’i ‘ai (poi pounding stones) to mash kalo into a paste-like substance called poi. Maui Ocean Center staff handmade the pounding implements under the instruction of nonprofit organization Lo‘iloa in Kula.
This innovative, hands-on tour is one of the many ways that Maui Ocean Center is redefining what an aquarium can be. The tour will focus on native plants (species that are found naturally in Hawai‘i) and endemic plants (those that are found only in Hawai‘i and nowhere else on Earth). Maui Ocean Center developed the tour with the support of the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (MNBG), a native Hawaiian ethnobotany garden in Kahului. A portion of ticket sales will support MNBG’s coastal native plant restoration efforts.