Chef Greg Grohowski has his hands full managing the high volume kitchens of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa. The Midwest native began as many chefs do, on the line through high school and college, cooking with family and friends along the way, apprenticing at the Tippecanoe Restaurant within the historic Studebaker Mansion in South Bend, Indiana, before joining Paragon Restaurants.
After a few seasons with Paragon on Michigan’s tourism-heavy Mackinac Island, Grohowski made the move to sunnier islands, landing first on Kauai at the Grand Hyatt Kauai before taking a position at the Hyatt Regency Maui. He ventured back to the mainland to assist with the opening of Hyatt restaurants around the west, including Las Vegas, Irvine, and Huntington Beach, before heading to the Caribbean as Executive Chef with Windstar Cruises. The warm westerly winds carried him back to Maui – and the Hyatt Regency – in 2011.
I chatted with chef Grohowski during my visit to Maui for Ka’anapali Fresh 2013, a Labor Day weekend event showcasing the culinary skills of the chefs at the Ka’anapali Resort. As part of both the Ka’anapali Fresh event, and the first off-island gathering of the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival, Grohowski’s hands were even more full than usual.
Q: Tell me about running the kitchens here at the Hyatt Regency.
A: I’ve been here for sixteen months, so it’s like being back home. So many of them had been in the kitchens years ago, so walking back in, it was just a bunch of faces I recognized.
Numbers-wise, I have six sous chefs, one executive. One executive steward, assistant steward. 75 cooks, 50 to sixty dishwashers. We do about a hundred thousand covers a month, including in-room dining, luaus, restaurants. It varies if we have larger groups and conferences.
Q: What are the challenges to running a property like this?
A: The biggest challenge, just because of the logistics of where we are, is that everything has to be ordered at least a month in advance, which is a bit tricky. For instance, we had a group in August of 3,000 people and we started planning it out in February.
The other challenge would just be trying to make sure that everyone’s in the right spot at the right time. The sous chefs on guard, the cooks are ready to go. They’re all great cooks, and they do a great job in supporting me.
Q: How was your experience working with the Ka’anapali Fresh event this year?
A: I was the chair chef this year, which they rotate every year. It’s a great festival. This year, we started off with the beer dinner with Maui Brewing Company. With Ka’anapali, along with the philosophy of the Hyatt, we use local as much as possible – the farmers, the ranchers, the fishermen. That event was really all local. Everything on our dishes was local. It’s a really good experience. We’re guaranteed to be a part of it for three years. Maui needs events like that.
Q: And in pursuing a culinary career, any chefs you admired growing up?
A: Graham Kerr and Julia Child. I recently saw replays of old Julia Child episodes on PBS, and I was so excited to buy that library. Nowadays, I like Guy Fieri. I love watching Anthony Bourdain – all of his traveling. Andrew Zimmern as well.
Q: As a parent of a teenage daughter, would you encourage her go into cooking?
A: I would encourage her to do whatever she wants to do. I would encourage kids to become chefs, but you have to let them know the good sides and bad sides of the lifestyle. The long hours, the holiday work.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Jen Heigl Creative