The Quarter-Century Chef

Executive chef Tylun Pang celebrates 25 years at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui.

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Story by Becky Speere

It’s no easy task to manage six dining venues, coordinate special events and oversee large banquets, but the Fairmont Kea Lani’s executive chef Tylun Pang makes it seem effortless. Since coming to the Fairmont 25 years ago, Pang has honed his management and organizational skills so that all things food and dining at the resort run like a well-oiled Hobart mixer. Despite all his accomplishments, Pang remains humble, and regularly shifts attention away from himself to highlight others. 

“My cooks helped create the menu at Kō, [Fairmont Kea Lani’s signature fine-dining restaurant], and there is a sense of pride in making the dishes that their grandparents, fathers and mothers passed down,” says Pang. “Food is very personal. More than taste, it reflects where we came from, our values. This feeling is the very essence of our restaurants.” 

Pang discovered his yuanfen (destiny) as a child in Honolulu. “My grandmother was head chef at a Chinese restaurant called Yong Sing, and my uncle owned a shop in Chinatown that sold pork, char siu and roast duck,” he says. “I have so many great memories of walking in the market with my dad and eating char siu sliced fresh off the hook. My father, Yun Young Pang, was a great cook, too, and I have a steamed fish dish on the menu at Kō that reminds me of him.” 

After pursuing his career in Asia, South America and across the US, Pang returned to the Islands in 1996 and immediately began working at the Fairmont. 

Pang is dedicated to supporting local commerce and uses food produced on Maui and in Hawai‘i at his restaurants and events, efforts that earned him the Maui County Farm Bureau’s Friend of Agriculture award in 2012. 

“When I buy local produce, that money goes to feed a family in Kula, or the fisherman in Kīhei or a rancher in Hāna and his family,” says Pang. “It’s our responsibility to use the resources that we have here on the island, and to keep our local businesses viable for future generations.” 

Pang’s cookbook, What Maui Likes to Eat (Mutual Publishing, 2010), is a collection of 140 recipes, including many of his own, several from Kō and a number from other local chefs. Throughout, Pang underscores the importance of sharing food at the table, and in an incredibly generous gesture, Pang donated all proceeds from the book to the UH-Maui College Culinary Arts Program. “My family and I decided that it was important to support up-and-coming chefs [with] scholarships,” he says. 

Congratulations on 25 years at the Fairmont Kea Lani, chef Tylun Pang! You are a role model, a kumu (teacher) and an inspiration, and you help make Maui nō ka ‘oi. IMUA!

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