Story by Becky Speere
Romancing the Barbecue
Smoke billows into the still afternoon light as juices drip and sizzle in the fire. A bundle of rosemary branches, dipped into a garlicky, herb-and-olive-oil marinade, paints a luster on the skinned axis deer splayed over a hot charcoal wood fire. Plump chickens, chunks of beef rib eye and whole pineapples dangle from wire hooks at the fire’s edges, cooking slowly to a tender, moist char. It looks like a scene from a Brazilian cookout. I expect to see a leather-booted gaucho, dressed in a chapéu de vaqueiro, long sleeves and flared riding pants, tending the meat. Instead, I find two of Maui’s finest chefs, Kane Charbonneau and Gary Johnson, at this culinary pop-up event, collaborating with Yeshua Goodman, co-owner of Kiawe Outdoor, a wild-to-table, live-fire event.
Yeshua is in his element. An advanced sommelier at Spago Maui in Wailea, he created Kiawe Outdoor (along with business partner Ben Classen) to share the culture and lifestyle of the islands, drawing on childhood memories and his love of dining with friends and family. “I grew up on the Big Island, and sustainable hunting, fishing, and conscious resource management were huge parts of my family’s life. At Kiawe Outdoor, it’s at the center of what we do.” Take tonight’s entrée, axis deer, a prolific invasive species that threatens agricultural crops and native plants alike. They’re also a more flavorful and healthier alternative to most commercially sold meats, he tells me.
Live-fire cooking an entire meal is not easy. It takes just the right heat to bake bread in the heavy enameled pot. And cooking multiple side dishes, such as colorful beets and carrots, or roasting eggplant and kabocha squash to a soft, buttery mass, takes careful timing. “We started the dinner prep at two,” Kane Charbonneau says as he bends over the firepit, tending mushrooms that have been sautéed in fresh herbs and garlic. A few minutes later, he offers me a sliver of rib eye. I bite into the smoky beef and the first thing that hits my palate is the salt, then herbs and garlic. Bliss!
Under the canopy of hundred-year-old kiawe trees (the namesake of the venue), a table covered in banana leaves and flowers awaits the coming bounty. As Haleakalā’s summit peeks through the clouds in the last rays of the setting sun, I note the lengthening queue of eager diners. I had better get in line, too, while the food is, literally, hot-off-the-fire! Yeshua Goodman, Kiawe Outdoor, 757-8022, Instagram: @kiawe_outdoor;