The Leis Family Class Act

Acclaimed student-operated restaurant to open for semester Wednesday at University of Hawai‘i Maui College in Kahului

University of Hawaii Maui College Culinary Arts students Jessie Olpindo, (left) and Danielle Soriano flank their Dining Room Lecturer Mark Malone in The Leis Family Class Act. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

It’s easy to learn “what’s cooking” at the college with a gourmet luncheon at The Leis Family Class Act.

Chef Lecturer Tom Lelli and Dining Room Lecturer Mark Malone are pleased and excited to announce that the first day of service for the fall 2017 semester will be on Wednesday upstairs at the University of Hawai’i Maui College’s state-of-the-art Pa’ina Building in Kahului.

“We are leading the students on a culinary adventure with menus inspired from around the globe,” explains Malone, who recently returned from a South American adventure in Machu Picchu, Peru. “Please join us at our award-winning, student-run restaurant on Wednesdays and Fridays for lunch.”

But hurry and make reservations fast as they are highly recommended and for very good reasons.

The Leis Family Class Act Restaurant was voted in the Top 100 in the United States and No. 2 overall Best Restaurant in Hawaii by users on Open Table the last time I wrote about it in May.

Chef Lecturer Tom Lelli (center) pleased as pie, gives a shaka with students last semester. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

It’s got floor-to-ceiling glass views of Kahului Harbor, linens and fine crystal for when you bring your own bottle of wine for the experience. These days, the corkage fee is $5 a bottle.

The Class Act also boasts a private dining room and an exhibition kitchen along with nice furniture. But if you can’t get in, do try one of the fast-food outlets in the expansive Food Court situated down the spiral stairs in the 37,656-square-foot, two-story colossus of a Pa’ina Building. Those outlets officially will reopen next week.

“It’s time to open and we’re passionate about service and that’s what we’re teaching the students,” says Malone. “The goals are to do it right and make it work while having fun all of the while.”

The students rotate from front of the house to the kitchen so they learn all aspects of how a restaurant works. Chef Lelli teaches them international cuisines, which start with an American-influenced menu on Wednesday and repeat Friday, Sept. 1.

“Tom is an amazing chef,” says Malone. “I’ve been in the business for 35 years and he’s one of the best there is. His whole thing is coordinating flavors and his passion for cooking makes him teach out of a book called the ‘Flavor Bible.’ “

One of the international luncheon courses. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Let Lelli and his student-chef team wow you with American pastrami-cured salmon and creme fraiche ice cream sandwiches with lemon relish; Mike’s wild mushroom cappuccino; salad of roasted beets served with compressed apples, goat cheese coulis, and candied macadamia nuts drizzled with carrot vinaigrette.

Next week’s entree choices are red-wine braised short ribs with Yukon Gold potato puree and horseradish cream; vegetarian parsnip agnolotti with Hamakua mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, Swiss chard, parmesan cheese and broth; almond-crusted fish with citrus-brown butter; and pancetta-wrapped grilled pork tenderloin with roasted Granny Smith apples with vanilla, parsley potatoes and shaved Green Goddess slaw.

Desserts range from light sorbets to more decadent strawberry shortcake and blueberry sour-cream sherbet.

The Class Act menu switches to a Latin influence Sept. 8, 13 and 15; Italian menu Sept. 20 and 22; Moroccan meal Sept. 27 and 29; French feast Oct. 4, 6 and 11; and then it rotates all over again ending up with the final day of service Dec. 1.

The Chef’s Table Tasting Menu Experience is also back by popular demand at 11:30 a.m. Fridays with small tastes of the entire menu for $75 per person. You must sit at the Chef’s Counter.

The semester will culminate with our Fall Celebration Dinner finale on Wednesday, Dec. 6,” says Malone. To see what’s on the menu, please review our Leis Family Class Act Facebook page or reference our weekly menus on Open Table.”

The Class Act at a glance:

• Hours: Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Where: Upstairs in the Pa’ina Building at the University of Hawaii Maui College in Kahului

• How much: The international four-course prix-fixe menus cost $31 to $43 per person per choice of entree. It also includes an amuse bouche, appetizer, soup or salad, and dessert. Tips go to student field trips. BYO wine for $5 corkage per bottle.

• At Chef’s Counter: The Chef’s Tasting Menu Experience is served at 11:30 a.m. Fridays, featuring all dishes that day for $75 per person at the Chef’s Counter.

• For reservations: Call Class Act at 984-3280 or visit