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Food & Dining // Food & Beverage Focus
Jo McGarry

Alex Franco

[media-credit id=1 align="alignleft" width="350"]Jo McGarry photo[/media-credit]

Alex Franco

ALEX FRANCO

President,

Maui Cattle Company

Where were you born and raised? I was born and raised on Maui, and I’ve been involved with agriculture my whole life. My dad had cattle, so I was raised around them. I loved working with them from when I was very little.

Our island beef industry is still in its early years. Do you see it as a very long-term project? Yes, of course. The industry is doing great right now, and there’s a lot of demand for locally produced food products. We have tremendous support from our local restaurant industry. So it’s all good.

What’s the toughest thing about this part of the food industry? We’re really impacted right now by the drought conditions we’re experiencing, so we’re having to pull back. We’re hoping that rains will come soon and we’ll get back to normal production. Part of the difficulty of the industry is explaining that to people.

Are we getting closer to a sustainable Hawaii? In order to cultivate our local food movement, the people in Hawaii have to be a part of it. The more people buy local products, the more we can invest in the industry and the more we can produce. It has to be gradual – and we all have to play a part. But for the most part, it’s good.

A lot of restaurants right now are advocating nose-to-tail eating. It seems easier with pork … maybe just because of the sheer size. Are we there yet with beef? We pretty much have a diversified market for all parts of the cattle, so we don’t waste too much. But the offal – the heart, liver and tongue – needs to be a bit more in demand.

You mean people need to eat more liver! (Laughs) Yes. I think over time it will come, but people still need some education about offal.

What are your favorite cuts of beef? Two cuts: rib eye and flat iron steak. How do you like to cook them? We grill country-style steaks. With the flat iron, for example, the way we prepare it is to slice it into small strips, season it well, and then it cooks up real fast and tender.

With whom would you most like to have a steak dinner? My buddies from Maui Cattle Company, Jimmy Gomes of Ulapalakua Ranch and Wes Wakuzawa, would be two …

Favorite restaurants on Maui? Ko at Kea Lani – where Tylun Pang and his team have been big supporters of ours. And Alan Wong’s new restaurant, Amasia, is wonderful. We like Amigo’s restaurant, too – they do a great job with Mexican food – and Merriman’s Monkeypod restaurant has amazing burgers. Peter and Alan and Chef Tylun have been great supporters of our beef – as have so many local chefs. -Jo McGarry

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