The Mill House's executive chef Jeff Scheer was featured on the cover of Maui Time's annual food issue!
Jeff talks to Maui Time about fresh produce and proteins, farm-to-table dining, and where Maui's food scene is headed in the years to come. See some of Chef Jeff's answers that didn't make the article below!
Cover image courtesy Maui Time, cover photography Sean Michael Hower, cover design Darris Hurst
How do you keep your menu fresh?
Seasonal availability of
drives our menu, which is why it changes almost daily. Keeping our menu “fresh” is a necessity since our core values focus on working with local farms (including the ones on our own property), using the freshest, highest quality ingredients, and making everything from scratch. Food is only as fresh as the source.
What are the freshest dishes you create? what makes them so fresh?
Hoaloha Farms and Kumu Farms are literally at the backdoor of our restaurant. Any dish with greens and produce from their fields was picked only hours before. Almost all our dishes involve elements from these two farms or other Maui farms. We only work with fresh ingredients and we make everything from whole butchery to baked goods.
No short cuts at The Mill House
Where or Who do you get fresh produce from?
Kumu Farms, Hoaloha Farms, Kupa’a farm, Oko’a farm, Simpliciano and more...
How do you source your proteins? Do you hunt or fish? why? How does that affect what you do with food?
We source only the finest meats, including Texas Longhorns from our property, certified organic beef from “Beef and Blooms”, and pork from Malama Farm in Haiku. The whole animal is purchased and I hand butcher the different cuts here in our kitchen. Aside from the cuts that are well-known by diners, we use the bones to create stocks and broths for the bases of sauces. We’ve created our own charcuterie program that utilizes cuts that would often be discarded. They are used in creative ways to enhance our dishes. We often have head cheese on our menu. With our preparation, it’s delicious and often requested. We have a deep respect for the animals and fish we use and it shows on our menu. “Nose to tail”; nothing is wasted.
Do you garden or grow food? why? How does that affect how you approach your dishes?
We like to say “WE ARE THE FARM!” The farms on our property allow us immediate access to fresh produce. We also grow microgreens in the back of our kitchen. I personally have a large garden at home, which has enriched my understanding of the process and care needed to grow high-quality, organic food.
Do you source more items locally now than you did a few years ago?
Our goal is to source 100% locally. Period. We’re a very new restaurant (our official grand opening was on Saturday March 19th.) But even before The Mill House, I worked closely with Kupa’a Farms to source fresh produce daily.
If you serve alcohol do you have locally made spirits in your bar?
Of course! We work a lot with Haili’maile Distilling Company (Pau vodka, Paniolo whiskey). We also carry Ocean Vodka, Lahaina Rum, and Koloa Rum. The rise of local distillers has been a fantastic addition to the spirits trade here in the islands.
Are you making handcrafted drinks? Why is fresh important in your bar?
All of our cocktails are handcrafted. Using ingredients from our farms, and other Maui farms, helps make these drinks unique. Made from scratch, we cut, muddle, and juice all of our fruits to order. We use fresh citrus only, we don’t carry any boxed juices, and we use cold pressed sugar cane (from the organic Oko’a Farm) to sweeten our cocktails. Fresh coconut water, and a muddled pineapple from our
fields are what compose a guest’s mai tai. You can’t serve food like this without having exceptional drinks to match. This carries over to our wine list as well. We’re constantly refining this list with the sole purpose of complimenting our dishes. It’s an ongoing process, especially since our menu is changing almost daily.
What is the freshest item or dish you ate recently and where did you get it?
Oko’o has beautiful turmeric that you can eat raw, it’s mild and makes a perfect curry. Bobby Pahia has taro that when steamed and roasted, tastes like potato. Kupa’a farms had the most amazing brassicas this year, and Kumu farms has corn that is sweeter than any corn I have ever had. We are surrounded by fresh ingredients and inspiration.
Describe the freshest aspect of your restaurant, how do you stay hip?
We’re not trying to be “hip.” What makes a great restaurant comes down to a few simple elements:
- Creativity and passion for the ingredients.
- Warm, impeccable service.
- An ambiance that makes you feel special.
We're working tirelessly to give our guests one of the best dining experiences of their lives. This is what drives us to learn and improve. Fresh, delicious, balanced food that leaves an indelible mark on your memory.
What are some of the trends that you are looking at in 2016?
The culinary scene is changing and growing. Not just here but everywhere. I feel like they are a lot more cooks today, that are totally immersed in current culinary trends and are devoting their lives to the skill. I think we are going to see an influx of smaller, independent restaurants with creative food. Most of the chefs that I know in the islands aren't trying to become rich or a star, they just want to be able to cook their heart out and be creative. They want to see people happy and excited by not only food but the whole experience. Passion is what drives this industry and that is how good concepts for restaurants develop. I think Maui is about to have a revolution driven by passion cooks who are making some great decisions.
Thanks for reading, and if you have thoughts about the future of food on Maui, please comment below!
All photography was either taken by Mill House staff, from owners that have given us written permission, and/or purchased for use. We have all the rights necessary to use these images on our website.