Hawaii Strong: Amid pandemic, M by Chef Mavro delivers gourmet experience ... to go

Hawaii Strong: Amid pandemic, M by Chef Mavro delivers gourmet experience ... to go

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 1998, Chef George Mavrothalassitis established an award-winning bastion of decadence on King Street.

More than 20 years later, he passed the torch to Hawaii’s Jeremy Shigekane, who took over the business as owner, executive chef, and renamed the restaurant M by Chef Mavro.

Pre-COVID, guests enjoyed a luxurious dining experience.

“We were a tasting menu only,” Shigekane said. “We did four and six course. Our menus run from $150 to $200, $250, depending, but that had everything, champagne, caviar, foie gras, wagyu, everything.”

Then in March 2020, the pandemic cleared the dining room. Future reservations disappeared. The staff was cut by 75%.

“That first shutdown, it was hard, but you adjust and you adapt and you try and turn a negative into a positive,” Shigekane said. “The second one was, that was just like a kick in the face.”

[This story is part of HNN’s “Hawaii Strong” series, profiling businesses in the islands adapting to the pandemic and its economic fallout. To suggest a profile, send an email to hawaiistrong@hawaiinewsnow.com.]

But Shigekane wouldn’t stay down for long. After much deliberation and hesitation, he decided to transform the menu into a take-out box for diners to enjoy the Mavro magic at home.

“We try and deliver the same experience somehow in a to-go as much as possible, so we’d plate it in a to-go like we were plating it on a plate,” Shigekane said.

“You can’t have truffles and foie gras for $30 because we would just lose money. We didn’t have to make money when we were doing to-go. we were just trying to sustain.”

From appetizers to desserts, the gourmet boxes are made with local ingredients and meant to feed two to six people for roughly $125.

While takeout became a success, Shigekane ventured into more uncharted territory when dine-in reopened and wrestled with how to create an outdoor experience.

“It looks simple, but there’s a lot of thought that goes into it,” Shigekane said.

“How far the lights go down, where it is, where it’s positioned so that you get enough light on the table. we had to figure out, this is like our mini entrance.”

The recent closure of the iconic Alan Wong’s restaurant not only shocked many but served as a reminder that even fine dining can’t escape the pandemic’s reach.

As Shigekane fights to keep his business going, he hopes consumers don’t overlook the industry’s hallmark of attention to detail.

“Maybe the bigger chains will survive through this and not so much, the smaller, local restaurants,” Shigekane said. “Fine dining, your price is high. We used to charge up to $200, $250, but the margin is not very large. It’s very small, much less than a lot of places.”

And it leaves little to no room for error.

Shigekane expects his team will keep delivering on that long after these unprecedented times. “Chef Mavro to me is not the person, so much, but as a, as a name, a brand, an experience,” Shigekane said.

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