Back when he celebrated his 25th anniversary at Gerard's, owner-chef Gerard Reversade called himself "one of the last Mohicans."
Now that his famous French restaurant with an island twist will soon be celebrating 30 years on Maui, he says he just may be one of the longest-running chef operators of any restaurant in Hawaii.
The thing is, Reversade is far from resting on his laurels, of which there are many, including being named "Best Chef on Maui" in recent years, and his restaurant getting 4-star ratings in Mobil Travel Guide and Awards of Excellence in Wine Spectator.
“The biggest part of my success is my dedicated team of employees. “I just love them!”
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Housemade pork rillette is served with cornichons, French bread and frisse lettuce.
He's still stands over a hot stove, day after day, evening after evening, ensuring that his guests are happy with his gastronomic creations.
"I'm still here every day. Still working very hard in the kitchen," says the classically trained chef from Gascony. "I grow my own lavender and incorporate it into dishes. I also grow mangos and make sorbet. I take it very seriously, even if I don't take myself seriously."
On a recent visit to Gerard's at the Plantation Inn off of Lahainaluna Road in Lahaina, we found the place rockin' and a rollin' with guests.
The anniversary: Kamaaina with valid Hawaiian ID get 50 percent off of the entrees June 10 as a thank you for supporting Gerard in the last 30 years. This discount will also apply on Bastille Day, July 14.
Daily: Kamaaina get 20 percent off of the entire food bill, during dinner service with seatings from 6 to 8:30 p.m. nightly.
Where: 174 Lahainaluna Rd., in Lahaina's Plantation Inn.
For reservations: Call 661-8939.
"I need a dirty Goose," a waiter called to the bartender, who was opening a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne as we were being seated.
Couples were flowing onto the verandah with its antique looking balustrades. Overhead fans spun lazily. Cushy chairs were being filled. A group of 16 was escorted inside. Bottles of red wine, uncorked.
Just then, Gerard walked out of the swinging kitchen door, dressed impeccably in his chef's whites, bringing us a rillette he had just made.
He's been featuring some incredible Berkshire pork from Peahi on Maui's North Shore in a variety of preparations and he couldn't wait for us to try it.
"I met this young couple, Lehua and David Fitch from Malama Farms in Peahi, and I bought the whole pig from them," said Gerard as he showed us pictures on his iPhone of the farm and its happy, free-range environs.
"So we're featuring a number of charcuterie items such as this rillettes de pork, which is shredded pork spread served with cornichons and toast.
The appetizer was a meal in itself, rich and smooth and masterfully prepared. You know this is the real deal. Grown on Maui, prepared on Maui. For $14, it was more than enough to share and Gerard says he loves to pack this up and take it on hiking trips.
He also makes fromage de tete: head cheese with shallots, cornichons, mustard mayonnaise and potato salad; pate de foie: liver pate with toast, the ubiquitous cornichons and olives; and boudin noir, a black pudding made of pig's blood served in a jar.
While Gerard tended his own garden at age 8 and made his first croissant at age 12, that was just child's play. Right before he turned 15 on Christmas Eve, he was taken to the train station to travel from Gascony to Provence for a three year culinary apprenticeship.
"Between breaks, you get to do your academics," he says. "In addition, my Uncle Emil was a master charcuterer and we visited him every year in the Loire Valley. He used to make Andouille sausage and I would go with him from town to town to sell it."
Gerard's is also famous for its fresh catch and seafood selections. The ahi tartare with housemade taro chips and Aina Lani Farm micro greens is crunchy, fresh and explosive in taste. The fresh Markea prawns on pasta with truffle butter is drizzled with hazelnut oil, and topped with creme fraiche and Reggiano parmesan cheese.
The chef also makes the most indescribably rich shrimp consomme. "It's not from a can," he says. "I boil down fish, shrimp heads and lobster then clarify it. We also do a fresh catch such as ono or mahimahi and fresh Hawaiian snapper every night. I just call the fishermen and give them a head start notice we need more fish."
Do you love duck confit and rack of lamb? Gerard will dazzle you with these as well. And, do save room for made in house desserts such as strawberry Romanoff, creme brulee and tarte tatin.