When it comes to vacations, there are three kinds of people. Some people go on vacation to relax, some like to explore, and some people just want to eat. Fortunately for people that come to Maui, with a fascinating history of global cuisines and an abundance of fresh fruit, fish and other foods, Maui’s culinary options will keep your palate happy for the entire length of your stay. And you haven’t really been to Maui without sampling a plate lunch, enjoying fresh poke, and you really can’t miss our famous shave ice. With all the options, won’t you feel better knowing you’ve had the best?
If you are one of those foodie travelers, you’re second call after booking your flight should be to Bonnie Friedman. A serious foodie herself, Bonnie established Tour Da Food in 2008 as the island’s first food tour and the only tour that focuses solely on ‘local food’.
Bonnie currently offers four tours – ‘Wailuku’, ‘Upcountry’, ‘Noodles, Dumplings & Dim Sum’ and perhaps Maui’s most unique tour, ‘GAS-tronomy’, a tour of four of Maui’s best local foods found in gas stations. Every tour includes transportation from and back to the central meeting place; all food; a goodie bag; and a list of additional off-the-radar eating places. And for foodies who would rather go it alone, Bonnie can provide a personalized list of recommendations through her website at Cuisine Confidential.
Bonnie has built close personal and professional relationships with Maui’s chefs, farmers and food producers during her decades spent in various careers on Maui. She is herself a certified Pastry Cook, and has co-authored two cookbooks for Ten Speed Press.
Having just returned from her own foodie trip to Italy (which we jealously observed via Facebook!), she answered some of our questions about her unique activity :
Made Made: How did you come up with this idea?
Bonnie Friedman: I have to give credit to my friend/colleague Keli’i Brown, the PR director of the Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau. He took a food tour of Chinatown in NYC in the mid-2000s. When he came back to Maui, he told me about it – VERY excitedly! – and said “You need to do this in Wailuku.” It took quite a while – about 18 months – to do all the research and plot out what I considered to be an excellent local food tour. I launched Tour da Food Maui in May 2008.
MM: What’s your most popular tour?
BF: I think Wailuku is still probably the most popular tour with Upcountry a close second.
MM: Any favorite moments or experiences?
BF: For me, the best moments are connecting with visitors, especially first time visitors, and introducing them to real local food. And they all really seem to love the experience. Most rewarding is when my guests and I become friends. It’s happened several times. There’s a family I see every year when they visit Maui and a couple I have at least one meal with in NYC when I travel there.
MM: Anything else you want to add?
BF: A few words of my “local food philosophy” – we have some excellent fine dining in Hawai’i, no doubt about it. But for me, the one thing we have here that no other place in the world has is local food. I think we learn a great deal about a place and its culture through its food. That’s the experience I hope I give my guests.
Mahalo to Bonnie for
making us hungry answering our questions, and don’t forget to check out her tour options on your next visit to Maui!