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|Cooking style||Hawaii Regional Cuisine|
Peter Merriman is a chef, restaurateur and one of the original 12 founding chefs of Hawaii regional cuisine. In 2011, he and the other Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs were inducted to the Hawaii Restaurant Association Hall of Fame.
He was de has been as a culinary pioneer in Hawaii for over 25 years. He is a vocal champion of Hawaii’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen. His restaurants showcase island grown and harvested foods through simple preparations that reflect the myriad flavors of Hawaii’s multiculturalism. He was called the “Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine” by The Los Angeles Times
Merriman was born in Pittsburgh. His mother Woodene (Woody) Merriman, a Pittsburgh Post Gazette food writer, exposed Peter to the field at a young age. , She got him a job at the H. J. Heinz Co. doing prep work for Master Chef Ferdinand Metz, who later became president of the Culinary Institute of America, Merriman attended The University of Pennsylvania and studied Political Science. After graduation, he enrolled in a three-year Chefs Apprentice Program with RockResorts, under the auspices of the American Culinary Federation, cooking in resorts across the United States and Europe, including a summer in the vineyards of France’s Champagne region.
In early 1983, Peter was hired as a cook for the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. In 1985, two years after his arrival, he was appointed Executive Chef of the Mauna Lani Resort’s new Gallery Restaurant.
At his interview for chef of The Gallery Restaurant, Merriman was asked what type of food he wanted to feature. Without thinking, he said “regional cuisine” and went on to explain how no other restaurants were serving the local fish and produce. When he got the job, he had to deliver on the concept but quickly discovered there were almost no local products available. Merriman advertised in the newspapers and went out to the farms, ranches and docks to let local producers know he wanted whatever they had. “We’re in this together,” he told them, “If you grow it or catch it, I’ll buy it, and we all succeed.” Pretty soon he had built solid partnerships and local producers would try to get or grow whatever he needed.
As he began recruiting other chefs to focus on local foods “Hawaii Regional Cuisine” was born with Merriman as founding president.
In 1988, Merriman opened his signature upcountry restaurant, Merriman’s, in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. He was proclaimed, "A gourmet in cowboy country" by Hana Hou!, the Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines. The New York Times raved “Everything at Merriman’s…features the freshest local ingredients paired in exciting ways,” and San Francisco Magazine exclaimed “His Wok-charred Ahi is to die for!”
In 1994, Merriman partnered with TS Restaurants to open Hula Grill on Maui’s famed Ka`anapali Beach. Hula Grill, touted “the best fish house in the islands” by Honolulu Magazine, brought the concepts of Hawaii regional cuisine to a beachside setting.
In 2003, he opened Merriman’s Mediterranean Café, located in the Waikoloa King’s Shops on Hawaii Island. The restaurant features casual dining and a menu rooted in Mediterranean flavors. Two more fine dining restaurants were added to the Merriman’s Hawaii group in 2008 and 2009 - Merriman’s Kapalua, on the grounds of the scenic resort on Maui’s West Side, and Merriman’s Fish House in Poipu, Kauai. Downstairs from the fish house, Peter offers casual dining at Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza & Burgers. In winter 2011, Merriman launched a new venture in casual dining with restaurateur Bill Terry. Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman is a place where beer lovers, families, and foodies come together. The restaurant features locally sourced menus with a focus on sustainable meat, fish and produce.
In 2015, Merriman debuted his first cookbook, Merriman's Hawaii.
Merriman also supports Merriman's Culinary Scholarships for students entering or continuing in the field of Culinary Arts at either Hawaii Community College or the University of Hawaii Center at West Hawaii. Merriman also serves on the Board of Directors as Vice President for Hawaii Island Land Trust, a non profit organization dedicated to protecting land in Hawaii.