Politics spurred their departure, but love picked the destination.
“I had heard about Maui through my best friend, who traveled here to get married,” Linda says. “When we arrived for the first time—for our own wedding—we fell in love with the aloha spirit in the people we met, the amazing weather with lots of rainbows and sweet air. We felt so blessed and welcomed!”
At the end of 1997, an ice cream shop on Front Street became their first Maui business. Linda says, “When we were introduced to Lappert’s Ice Cream out of Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i, we thought that it would be a great opportunity—and fun!—to own and operate an ice cream store. My uncle in Taiwan was involved with a Swensen’s ice-cream franchise and he gave us some good advice on operating the business and profit margins. Our new island life was quite the opposite of our pace in Hong Kong, but we embraced the change, and, of course, we were working night and day on our new businesses!”
In December 1999, they purchased their second venture from longtime Maui chef David Paul, and kept the restaurant’s eponymous name for seven years. By the time David Paul’s was rebranded as Lahaina Grill, in 2007, it was operating like a Swiss watch. Present-day executive chef Arnolfo “Arnie” Gonzalez began as a dishwasher at David Paul’s. Under Jurg’s mentoring, he cooked his way up to the restaurant’s top kitchen position. “Chef Arnie and I collaborate on new dishes and we refine them together,” Jurg says.
My first bite of perfectly seared foie gras and smoky ‘ahi—red and rare to the core—convinces me that it’s a divinely inspired collaboration, and so do the restaurant’s old favorites: tequila shrimp, and Colorado lamb in coffee-spice rub grilled to a tender, medium-rare finish. Jurg says, “We let all our proteins rest for fifteen minutes so the juices have a chance to settle and redistribute.” I nod appreciatively at the respect his kitchen has for the finest ingredients and time needed to create a dish that will exceed one’s expectations.