Kupu Maui Sprouts Up

Memories of Culinary Adventure at The Ghetto Gourmet

6 Years ago Elena and I attended a Ghetto Gourmet dinner, it was an experience we’ll never forget, Kupu Maui brought back a lot of those memories so for context…

The Ghet wasn’t the first underground restaurant or supper club to exist, but at least in our circles, it became well known enough that I expect some who read this will have heard of it.  If you have, let me know in the comments.

For us The Ghet was the first one that Elena and I had heard about, and which we thought there was actually a chance of finding and getting into. as we had actual real life friends in the bay area that had gone to there dinners up there.  We were hearing more and more stories of these illicit backyard meals, prepared by top chefs tired of the monotony of running a restaurant, attended by an eclectic group or culinary adventures.  The problem was that The Geht was exclusively happening in the bay area and we lived in Southern California.

We started trying to figure out how to get an invite to a Ghetto Gourmet dinner around SF and pair it with a trip up that way.  Fortunately after many months of hoping and trying to figure a way into one, GG hinted that they’d be taking their show on the road and coming to Southern California.  Perhaps is on of the best part of having no permanent physical space is that it’s flexible not only so that it’s hard to shut down when the authorities decide 50 people attending a dinner in someone’s living room qualifies as an illegal restaurant operation, but so you can share the magic far and wide should wanderlust over take you.   We reached out to the organizers and put in a request to be notified if and when they came south and then we crossed or fingers and waited… and waited…

After months of waiting we scored tickets to a dinner in Southern California.  It was everything we dreamed.   Tables were filled with an eceletic mix of people only united by their hunger for culinary adventure.  An acoustic duo, The Throws, entertained us between courses as we sat on pillows around low tables crammed into a living room with free access to wander into the kitchen if we choose as long as we stayed out of the way.  The food was just part of the experience, an excellent part, but just a part… it was a complete dinning experience.

Maui’s own Farm to Table Restaurant Pops up

This morning Elena and I got to experience something very similar, but with a very local Maui slow food twist…   the launch of Kupu Maui.

Kupu, which means sprout in Hawaiian, was brought into being by our dear friend Dania Katz (@DaniaKatz), with Chefs James Simpliciano (@kimosimpliciano) and Jenna Haugard (@mauitable) locally sourcing and creating the food.  In spite of the admitted connection to Dania I can say with complete sincerity that the first meal was a stunning success!

Unlike The Ghet which operated mostly in secret and without permits, licenses and commercial kitchens, Kupu Maui operates above board and plans to pop up on schedule at a different Maui farm each 3rd Saturday of the month.  Serving an ever changing menu of locally sourced food.  Maui has growing stable of local farms that supply a huge diversity of food far beyond what most visitors to Maui would expect.  Really it’s not all sugar cane, pineapple and poi here.

Like the Ghet Kupu Maui will rely mostly on word off mouth marketing, which in this era means predominantly on twitter and I can’t wait to meet the eclectic mix that will make a Kupu meal part of their visit to Maui.   This first meal was mostly locals, in fact maybe all locals, but it was still a broad mix of friendly people many of which I hadn’t met before but got to know over the course of the meal.  Similar again to the GG, there was socializing with the organizer and chefs before during and after the meal and wonderful musical entertainment provided by Joel Katz… and all set in what is one of the most spectacular settings on Maui, the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm…. just look at the photos below to get a sense of the view… really it’s EVEN better in person.

Well, I for one am keeping my eyes on @kupumaui’s twitter stream for the tweetvite to next month’s dinner.

KupuMaui 2012, a set on Flickr.


  1. Your post on Kupu Maui caught my attention because at first I thought you were me, since my name is also Jon and I write about Maui.  But on looking at your website, I find you travel to lots of places and write about lots of other fascinating things too.  I’m glad to meet another person who knows the right way to spell Jon.

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