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Doris Christenson, matriarch of world-renowned Mama’s Fish House, dies at 84

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Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 6:53 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2021 at 9:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The matriarch of the world-renowned Mama’s Fish House on Maui died Thursday afternoon with her loved ones by her side.

Doris Christenson passed away from ongoing health issues, according to family members.

She was 84 years old and leaves behind a legacy of love, hard work and amazing food.

“She was really strong but small in stature,” said her daughter, Karen Christenson, who is also the vice president of Mama’s Fish House.

Christenson said her parents, who come from humble beginnings, shared a great vision.

“We used to celebrate all of our family’s birthdays at this little place in Olowalu — Chez Paul, a little French restaurant — and they were talking about their dreams for the restaurant,” Christenson said.

“I said, ‘But daddy, it would never be like this restaurant where people go for their birthdays. And he put his finger in my face and he said, ‘Just you wait little girl.’”

Little did she know at the time, her parent’s restaurant would one day become a famous Maui landmark.

Doris Christenson and her husband Floyd opened Mama’s Fish House in Kuau Cove on Maui’s North Shore in 1973.

Today, the restaurant is known around the world.

“Working for those two wonderful people has been an honor,” said Executive Chef Perry Bateman.

Bateman became Mama’s first executive chef. He said he knew from his first day more than 30 years ago that Mama Doris and Papa Floyd were special.

“It’s not just a restaurant. It’s actually an experience of elegance, excellence. That’s what Mama Doris represented,” Bateman said.

Karen Christenson said her parents succeeded and became pillars in the local food industry because of their work ethic and the risks they took.

“They were willing to take chances. They opened a fish house in the 70s when all there were only steak houses. They bought property in the middle of nowhere in a day when tourists did not rent cars and go holoholo. They stayed in the resorts,” she said.

Mama’s Fish House has won multiple awards locally, nationally and internationally for best restaurant.

Doris Christenson leaves behind her husband of 66 years, two children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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