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Fork & Salad Maui: Eat Local, Eat Healthy

Posted July 15, 2016, 05:30 PM HST Updated July 15, 2016, 06:02 PM HST
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Supporting local business is important anywhere you live. But it takes on new meaning when we’re out here in the middle of the Pacific.

The owners of Fork & Salad Maui not only understand that local focus, they’ve built their business on it. The new Kīhei restaurant has a mission: #EatLocalEatHealthy, and aims to redefine the “farm-to-table” movement by reconnecting people to their food sources.

“I think it’s important to be conscious of Maui’s agricultural future and just being mindful of the island’s resources,” explains Fork & Salad co-owner/chef Travis Morrin. “Trying to import less, it’s important for a chef, for people who travel here, and for our kids.”

The restaurant, which opened Wednesday, July 13, has partnered with more than 25 different farms and suppliers to source its menu as locally and organically as possible.

“We want to make it more accessible, to create a place people can trust for fresh, quality food that’s convenient, quick and affordable,” Morrin adds.

Fork & Salad’s fresh concept is catching on quickly with Maui residents and visitors; the eatery saw an impressive 333 customers on opening day, and almost 500 on its second day of business.

“There were a lot more people than I expected, a constant steady flow,” say Morrin, “ the excitement was high, the pressure was high, the hype was there, and I think people really enjoyed themselves.”

Morrin, along with chefs/co-owners Jaron Blosser and Cody Christopher, worked on the concept for several years. The friends, surfers and business partners also own Three’s Bar & Grill in Kīhei, which opened in 2010.

Their newest venture features classics like Caesar, Greek, nicoise and cobb salad, along with creative and healthy salads like kabocha squash and strawberry, buckwheat noodle and Kumu Farms papaya salad.

You can also build your own salad with six types of Maui greens, around a dozen house-made, gluten-free dressings, a range of protein add-ons and 50 ingredients to choose from.

“We just feel like there was a need out there; a need for the convenience of health food, for the price of health food and we wanted to make sure we could support the local farmers,” explains co-owner/chef Jaron Blosser.

The restaurant has been training staff to build salads and menu items in three minutes or faster, and developed a mobile app for take-out orders, available on IOS and Android.

“People pick their menu items, order and pay, all using the app,” Blosser says. “Then we have a dedicated space in the restaurant just for to-go orders, so it’s fast and easy.”

The sandwiches are also a big hit, with offerings like lemon and thyme chicken with macadamia nut pesto, smoky mango chicken with Surfing Goat cheese and pastrami-seasoned seared Ahi sandwiches. The bread comes from Maui Pasta Company in Waikapū.

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“We’re supporting Maui Pasta Company; they have absolutely phenomenal focaccia bread,” says Morrin. “We’re going through 10 to 12 sheet pans a day, so sandwiches are really popular!”

In addition, Fork & Salad offers soups, a keiki menu and an extensive array of beverages, featuring fresh juices, health shots and kombucha on tap. It will be serving beer and wine once it receives a liquor license.

The food isn’t the only custom creation. The chefs took on the construction project in part of the old Stella Blues building many months ago, transforming the empty space into a modern, polished business. Blosser served as project manager on the build-out. The biggest challenge?

“Just to coordinate with everyone, from the contractors to the county, and it is a tough process to make sure you get it exactly right,” he says.

The chefs hand-crafted many features themselves, including the tables, counters, railings, recycling receptacles and water stations. Co-owner/chef Cody Christopher proudly oversaw that part of the project with help from master carpenter (and Blosser’s stepfather) Roger Brower.

“I think the best feeling is whenever my business partners hit me on the back and say, ‘Dude! Those tables!” or say, “Cody can build it,’” smiles Christopher. “‘Cause they rely on me, just like I rely on them.”

Christopher did much of the woodworking in his garage. The hands-on work was a labor of love, and allowed the business partners to stay within their budget.

“We wanted to pass the savings onto our customers,” explains Christopher. “We kept our start-up costs down, did a lot ourselves. We want people to not have any excuse for not eating healthy!”

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Fresh ingredients for salads and sandwiches on display at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Fresh ingredients for salads and sandwiches on display at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

A variety of Maui greens at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

A variety of Maui greens at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Owners open the doors at Fork & Salad in Kīhei. Courtesy photo.

Owners open the doors at Fork & Salad in Kīhei. Courtesy photo.

Architectural rendering for build-out of Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Architectural rendering for build-out of Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Architectural drawing for the vision of Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Architectural drawing for the vision of Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

The beginning phases of construction at Fork & Salad Maui. Courtesy photo.

The beginning phases of construction at Fork & Salad Maui. Courtesy photo.

Lines on opening day at Fork & Salad in Kīhei's Azeka Mauka shopping center. Courtesy photo.

Lines on opening day at Fork & Salad in Kīhei’s Azeka Mauka shopping center. Courtesy photo.

Fork & Salad features more than 50 fresh ingredients, most of them local. Courtesy photo.

Fork & Salad features more than 50 fresh ingredients, most of them local. Courtesy photo.

Outdoor seating at Fork & Salad, surrounded by a hand-crafted redwood railing. Courtesy photo.

Outdoor seating at Fork & Salad, surrounded by a hand-crafted redwood railing. Courtesy photo.

The three chefs/co-owners work the line at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

The three chefs/co-owners work the line at Fork & Salad. Courtesy photo.

Fork & Salad prides itself on fresh ingredients from local farms and producers. Courtesy photo.

Fork & Salad prides itself on fresh ingredients from local farms and producers. Courtesy photo.

The restaurant is striving to be cost-conscious. For instance, customers choose their base greens plus five fresh ingredients to build an entrée-sized salad for $8.95. Sandwiches start at $9 and include a small spring mix salad.

The new restaurant is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Azeka Mauka shopping center on South Kīhei Road.  Although owners note they will be closed this Sunday, July 17 to update systems.

Fork & Salad is planning a special farmers’ market, blessing and beer garden at its Grand Opening celebration during Kīhei’s Fourth Friday on August 26.

This may be the first Fork & Salad, but the owners hope it won’t be the last. They’re aiming to open more eateries, and not only around Maui.

“We have lofty goals,” says Morrin. “We hope one day to have dozens and dozens of these restaurants to spread the farm-to-table movement across the state and beyond.”

Kiaora Bohlool
Kiaora Bohlool has been a journalist since 1998. With chefs in her family, she has a lifelong appreciation for food...

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