Hurricane Lane, a glass of vino and some ruminations..

The Subjective nature of food and other cheffly ruminations….

Meanwhile, while Hurricane  Lane is huffing and puffing his way through the Hawaiian Island chain,  I’m having a glass of wine and writing a blog…

Culinary art is the ultimate art medium- to be experienced and appreciated  by ALL the senses, also having the innate ability to hinder or heal a body on a molecular level.  What a gift to create in the medium of food and to have such an amazing array of ingredients with which to do it!

With the ability to hinder or heal your body~ culinary art’s medium  ( food)  has the ability to do what no other art form can. 

I joke that the only time I call myself a “chef” is when I’m wearing that fancy coat that has my name and company logo on it.  Does this legitimize my cheffiness?  What is it to be a chef?  I prefer to name myself as a culinary artist.  How can one claim this?  Like art, culinary art is so subjective.  I believe that the title of “chef”, incorporates the business aspect of the culinary art form of putting food together,   The  sourcing, pricing, working with a budget, the nuts and volts and not creative part is what the term “chef” begs for me specifically.  Unfortunately,  this is the ickiest part of my job and I am ashamed to admit,  I have a bookkeeper and an accountant who I am quite happy to pay so they can deal with that mundane side of  cheffy life.  I mean, as long as I am getting paid, do I really give a crap what my food cost is?( For the record,  I charge per person, not food cost,  unless a very specific job order.  Generally- I absorb food costs into my overall cost. ( glad I clarified that !) 

– masago, and tobiko- worthy every dime for that briny pop of umami in these lovely pupus 

I mean, is a $7.00 dragon fruit and a $5.00 tray of masago gonna kill my profit margin? …. the pop of these ingredients add value!..

On another subject, everyone’s palette is different, what tastes amazing to one person might be repugnating to another.. Then there’s that whole involuntary dietary restriction trend too-  like building a house with an unlimited budget- I’m not terribly impressed when people can pool any number of resources to outsource the project to the very best architects, designers, finish carpenters and landscape architects.  Along those lines, now produce for me a dish using a restricted budget, (like here’s $10.00- go find some cool stuff and make us an epic dessert- better yet- here’s nature- go forage for it all- oh yeah,  and keep it clean – No soy, animal products, dairy or gluten. ) 

Another rumination about chef life ( and when I say chef life,  I mean cooking as a means of making a living- people give you money to create menus, procure ingredients and create a meal)   I had an hour long “menu consultation” today with a client who happens also to be a foodie who has run the gamut of many diets , currently a vegan herself, but the rest of the party just gluten free.  I’m pretty sure when I have a menu consult with someone they get off the phone going,  “wow,  that girl is really excited about food!.”  I do get all excited, jotting down notes frenetically, asking funny little questions like,  “how do you feel about mushrooms, ummm,  and when you say peppers,  do you mean like sweet roasted smoky peppers or a shishito, and what about spice? And whats your feeling about searing mushrooms in rendered animal fat with fresh herbs?”   In an hour’s time,  we created a gorgeous party menu with like 12 courses for each of the nights that I will be coming to create culinary art.  She knows she’s in good hands and I am excited to have a captive audience to present my creations to.  On another occasion,  I was hired for a 10 day stint to cook for a celebrity family ( who’s name  I cannot disclose) and came in, guns blazing,  setting up my beautiful vases of fresh kitchen herbs, arranging all my lovely artisan provisions in the fridge only to find out that they were TOTAL non foodies and really just wanted to hunker down and enjoy an estate with some food made that wasn’t made by them and didn’t want t ask too much of their traveling staff, so they hired me. 🙂

I may or may not have been paid a shamefully large sum of money to make cream cheese and tomato bagels for breakfast and a hot dog and cheeseburger lunch- more than once. Hey, my daily rate is my daily rate.

When I first arrived, I sat down to do a little mini consult with the said celeb-  when asking what kind of lunches they prefer, the answer was “ you know that cheese with the holes in it.”  I politely nodded, jotting down- internally begging,  Swiss? Lorraine? Havarti? but realized I was dealing with someone who didn’t really do food and I was most probably annoying as hell with all my enthusiasm and grand inquisition of the foodie nature. End note-  we finally did make culinary magic together,  it did take a few days of gentle questions and some experimental dishes that were well received and  they asked for an encore of those said dishes  People like what they like.

Me, center. How I feel when i get to talk food with a client.

Next up-  ( I have to ration my blog ideas so I don’t condense them all into one blog) is the level of vulnerability you put on yourself when you say you are a “chef.”  ( case in point,  I bring something thats not my total “ A game” salad to a pot luck ( literally just threw it together) and I see a friend who knows my vocation there,  they ask, “ Oh!  what did you bring?  I gotta try your food! “  Lesson learned-  Always bring your A GAME-  your family will have mercy on you but for your friends and associates  – your neck is constantly on the chopping block!   

Lilikoi Creations- what’s in a name?

I adore Hawaiian words.  With 13 letters total, 5 of which are vowels,  the rest consonants and an ‘okina (‘),  you can bet I was confused when I moved here believing all words sounded like a different hybridization of the last.  I had to see it all written and repeated many times before I would commit it to memory.   Lilikoi is the name for the Hawaiian passion fruit.  These gorgeous golden orbs  drop to the ground just at the peak of ripeness.  Finding a lilikoi when they are in season is like scoring that perfect golden egg in a easter egg hunt.  Filled with the quintessential tropical flavor,  as a chef,  I claim that what a lemon or lime can do, a lilikoi can do even better.  

Lilikoi infused fresh coconut water.

From a culinary standpoint, whatever a lemon or lime can do,  a lilikoi can do even better.

From curds to hollandaise, savory marinades, dressings and most definitely a shrub or fresh element to a cocktail,  lilikoi is a lovely as its name and when they are in season,  you can bet you will taste them infused in myriad forms into my cuisine.  A little aside,  we lived for 6 years in Florida and we had a lilikoi vine that never fruited.  I was perplexed as to what this gorgeous flower was because it never did anything other than produce fantastic blossoms.   If you’ve never seen a lilikoi flower, it is one of the most spectacular and intricate blossoms I have ever seen. How ironic that my Floridian Lilikoi never gave fruit… not its season or mine I suppose as I was raising my two daughters at the time and locked away in baby prison. (loving every minute but definitely not on a career track)

My Floridian lilikoi blossom never gave fruit- not its season or mine,  I suppose. 

My business is a culmination of the fruit of my passions;  an organic convergence of what I am passionate about which yields this fruit ( or in this case,  my career!)  based on all that I am passionate about-  beautiful food, ingredients,  inspired cuisine and healthy lifestyle.   So,  LILIKOI is a passionfruit,  LILIKOI CREATIONS is the business I have built around what is the fruit of my passions.  There,  now you know.  🙂

Lilikoi bounty in a basket by Paia Bay, North shore of Maui

Aloha and be blessed ~

Chef Maja

Featured Event Chef

Huliau Food and Film Festival

Chef Maja was a featured event chef at the 2017 Huliau Food and Film Festival. The festival features multiple chef-run farm-to-table stations, and a cash bar of 100% locally-produced cocktails, beer and wine. Guests enjoy live music, a silent auction, and a food-themed student film contest. All funds raised benefit Maui Huliau Foundation’s environmental education programs for Maui youth. Visit the event website.

Chef Maja Liotta of Lilikoi Creations Huliau Food & Film Festival 2017
Huliau Food & Film Festival

Maui Huliau Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 2010 to provide unique environmental education programs to Maui’s youth.