I walked into Maui Prime Fine Foods in Emerald Plaza in Lahaina the other day, and lo and behold, I spotted veteran Maui chef Alex Stanislaw.
He was busy behind the seafood counter, shucking Kumamoto oysters. Will Hawkins was maintaining the live Maine lobster and dungeness crab tank. Clerk Valeria Magri was tending to the cash register, the cheeses and the olive section.
Owner Cary Button was waxing on about his recent culinary trip to China with Martin Yan, and how each day's meal in Beijing consisted of 15 courses, when Stanislaw came into his line of sight.
Veteran Chef Alex Stanislaw (left) slings a just-caught mahimahi and clerk Valeria Magri hoists a net of fresh Fanny Bay oysters.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
"We hired this good-looking gentlemen to take over as retail manager," says Button, a classically trained chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America many years ago, and who, with wife Karin Button, owned and operated the old Fish & Game in Kahana.
"With all of Alex's knowledge, we knew we needed to get him onboard to expand our catering business."
Stanislaw is perhaps best known on Maui as former chef-partner at Plantation House, when Roy Dunn owned it. He and Button both cooked together at The Bay Club (now Merriman's Kapalua) back in the day and both attended CIA in Hyde Park, New York ,around the same time.
Maui Prime: Located at 142 Kupuohi St. #F7 at Emerald Plaza in Lahaina. Store hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For gourmet platters, delivery, catering or more, call 661-4912 or visit mauiprime.com.
"Cary loves good food," says Stanislaw. "His wife, Karin, loves good food. I love good food. And, we all love wine. When Cary came to me, it was a no-brainer to take this position. We all have such passion."
Plus, Hawkins is also an executive chef, who graduated from New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Magri is a Milan, Italy, native. As the men bantered back and forth, she suggested in her beautiful Italian accent that I cook the squid-ink pasta I purchased al dente, or "to the bite."
She said this, raising fingers to her mouth. "Then you add the cooked pasta to the pan with one pound of clams, and lots of olive oil and fresh parsley."
This time of year, Maui Prime offers three types of turkeys, including air-chilled birds, the Heritage that's never been crossbred; and fresh, free-range turkeys fed without any chemicals or hormones.
As the Buttons own the adjacent Oyster Seafood wholesale outlet that distributes to hotels and restaurants here, their Maui Prime boasts the freshest seafood around. They'll tell you how to make mignonette sauce in a snap. Or, they can cater it for you.
"We have tons of oysters, live lobsters and live crabs," says Button. "Whatever anybody wants. We just had a guy who called and asked for a live pig!"
Gourmet food lovers can't do any better for Thanksgiving than with Kurobuta bone in ham; thick and well-marbled prime steaks; and game meats and birds such as venison, quail and pheasant.
Pick up a bottle of Mollydooker's "The Scooter" merlot, or Dry Creek Vineyard's "The Mariner" meritage, and pair them with gourmet food items from Maui Prime, and you'll be the in-demand hostess or guest at any island party.
Maui Prime's team will ice your seafood down and even carry it to the car. Tips are not expected, but appreciated.
"We have a lot of people under one roof with decades of culinary experience," says Button. "We can cater pretty much anything that you want."