Acclaimed and sought-after celebrity chef and TV personality Lee Anne Wong quietly moved to the Valley Isle last year and now comfortably calls Maui home. Many island tummies are celebrating with delight now that the culinary gem is at the helm in the kitchen at newly restored and historic Pioneer Inn in Lahaina.
In this interview, learn more about the Top Chef Alumna also seen on Iron Chef America, The Cooking Channel and who recently served as Executive Chef for Hawaiian Airlines. Find out why the chef and owner of Koko Head Cafe, award-winning chef and star from the East Coast opted to turn in her city shoes for island slippers.
How did you first make your way to Hawaii after being known as a celebrity chef from New York?
“After 20 years in NYC, I was restless and looking for more. I began dating someone who lived on Oahu so I suppose I moved for love and luck. I opened up Koko Head Cafe shortly after moving to Oahu and we are about to celebrate 7 years of brunch awesomeness.”
I feel like you quietly moved to Maui… how did that happen after living on Oahu for 5 years?
“I met my fiance on Kauai and we were blessed with our son Rye in 2017, at which point I decided I wanted him to grow up with room to move, hence Maui. And yes, I sort of snuck out. People here on Maui still think I live on Oahu and travel back and forth haha. Always shocked when I say “Pukalani”.”
Why is Maui a good fit for you and your family?
“From someone who lived in the concrete jungle for 20 years, I wake up daily and look out our front door and am always in awe of the beauty of Maui, especially from where we are upcountry. The park, playground, and public pool is 15 minute walk from our house, and the beaches of Maui are a short drive away. Rye is growing up in nature, much in the way that I had a peaceful suburban upbringing with access to the woods in my backyard and the creek right next to our house. At 3 years old, he is already learning how to body surf and paddle board with dad, he loves to help us with our gardening and yard work. It’s definitely a more laid back, family-oriented lifestyle for us and we love the feeling of “openness” especially on our drives through upcountry and around the island. There are so many wonderful and unique things to discover and we look forward to exploring every corner of Maui.”
Coming up in part 2 of this interview, learn more about Lee Anne’s vision for the new Best Western Pioneer Inn and the challenges overcome while opening a new restaurant on Maui during COVID.
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