Maui Brewing Company anticipates a major summer influx at their signature Kihei location this month due to the arrival of award-winning chef, Jojo Vasquez. After 13 years in the Hawaiʻi food scene, Vasquez brings his passion for cuisine to the standout Kihei brewery with powerful flavors and sophisticated presentation, all while utilizing the finest local produce.
Vasquez is a Chicago native who initially found his culinary calling as a child, assisting his father with a family-run catering business serving Filipino, Chinese and American cuisine. He went on to study culinary arts at Kendall College’s Culinary Institute in Evanston, Illinois, after which he continued to develop his craft under the tutelage of acclaimed chef Troy Thompson. Following his time with Chef Thompson, Vasquez further honed his skill with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, for whom Vasquez served as sous chef for two seasons on the hit show “Iron Chef”.
Vasquez initially moved to and was married on Maui in 2004, where he thrived as chef de Cuisine for the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Resort’s Banyan Tree Restaurant. He went on to open Morimoto Waikiki on Oahu as executive chef of the Morimoto team before returning to Maui to lead The Plantation House restaurant staff as executive chef.
Voted Maui No Ka ʻOi Magazine’s 2017 Chef of the Year by his peers, Vasquez has been a standout in the Hawaiʻi food scene for over a decade and shows no signs of arresting his momentum. His reputation as a purveyor of sustainable, artisanal cuisine caught the eye of Maui Brewing Company, and the newfound partnership offers him an exciting opportunity to bring that sensibility to Maui’s blossoming bar scene.
“I do everything based on the integrity of the ingredients and an eclectic method that uses as much fiercely local, sustainable avenues as I have,” he shared. Along with sustainability and locally sourced ingredients, the company’s dedication to artisan craftsmanship also goes hand-in-hand with his personal philosophy as a chef. “I want to make sure there’s craftsmanship in the touches and elegance in the plating,” he says. “I want to make sure people say ʻdamn, I need to come back because I didnʻt try the whole menu.”
In anticipation of his debut, he is preparing an inspired direction for new menu items, utilizing Maui Brewing Company signature brews in fresh and exciting ways. He has already started experimenting with brews like his favorite, the quintessential Bikini Blonde Lager, using it to create a rich, savory broth with braised manila clams and lup cheong, complimented by shitaake and kale furikake. Another one of his favorites is a bright, summery brew that already has him dreaming of fresh dishes.
“The limited edition I love is called Two Tickets to Paradise and is a tropical Saison with hibiscus and lime. It really highlights the citrus on the palate,” he explained, “so for me thatʻs sashimi. I taste hamachi or beautiful kampachi or grilled kama with a little bit calamansi and maybe some peppery arugula.”
The promise of vibrant flavors and a dynamic dining experience assure there will be much to look forward to from Maui Brewing Company starting in May with chef Vasquez at the helm.
Founded in 2005, Maui Brewing Company is Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, operating 100% in Hawaii. MBC is based on Maui, with its production brewery, full-service restaurant and tasting room in Kihei, as well as pubs in Lahaina (Maui) and Waikiki (Oahu). Maui Brewing Company is available in 23 states and 10 international countries with more areas to follow.