Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Mieko Horikoshi
It’s six in the morning and the sky is on fire with streaks of fuchsia, hot pink, and golden amber light. Buttery scones bake in the oven, dotted with bits of homegrown liliko‘i (passionfruit), strawberries and pohā (gooseberries), while a pot of Nicky Beans coffee brews. Why am I up so early, bustling about my kitchen? Because MiJin Kang, the new chef de cuisine at Andaz Maui’s Ka‘ana Kitchen, is coming to my Huelo home.
I had the pleasure of tasting her cooking at the restaurant a few weeks earlier, and had brought to that dinner an omiyage (gift) of pohole (fiddlehead ferns) and bitter mugwort from my garden, which had piqued MiJin’s interest in a visit, farm-to-table advocate that she is. And I’m eager to learn more about the Guamanian-born Korean. Not only does she hold one of the most sought-after culinary positions on Maui, but she joined Andaz’s Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco when they were recently invited to create a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York. The honor to cook at the home of the late James Beard is the pinnacle for any culinarian, and MiJin’s new menu from Ka‘ana Kitchen highlighted the evening. (To no one’s surprise, the dinner sold out.)
As I wait for MiJin to arrive, I flash back to the dinner my husband, Chris, and I enjoyed at Ka‘ana Kitchen, one week after the select crew returned to Maui from their New York City triumph. . . .