Born and raised in Kauai, Hawaii, Ikaika Manaku discovered his passion for cooking at the tender age of six when he began helping his Irish-Portuguese grandmother and cousins in making 30 pounds of malasadas for family and community gatherings. His interest grew when he began his first job at a bakery at the age of 17, while he was still studying.
Upon graduating in culinary arts at Kauai Community College, Ikaika began his career at Princeville Resort, holding positions such as Chef de Garde Manger and Sous Chef at the resort now known as St Regis Princeville. He joined Sheraton Kauai Resort in 2007 as Executive Sous Chef before his appointment in 2010 as Chef de Cuisine at Tropica Restaurant & Bar, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa. Two years later, he was promoted to the position of Executive Sous Chef at this 12-acre beachfront resort on Ka’anapali Beach, Maui.
Ikaika’s classic culinary expertise combined with his creative flair and strong relationship-building skills have contributed to his present success. He is most passionate in promoting sustainable cuisine and enjoys being creative with island-inspired flavors such as onions, pineapple, ferns, beets, lavender and goat cheese to enhance guests’ dining experience. He also sources seasonal flavors available in Hawaii such as sweet mangoes with a nice texture, lychee and even mountain apples.
“It is our responsibility as chefs to support island sustainability through the restaurant industry. We can certainly influence the development of agri-tourism by facilitating supply and demand such as creating menu selections that provide our visitors and guests sampling of the island’s fresh farm ingredients and flavors unique to the Hawaiian islands. These include Kula strawberries in our signature dessert at Relish Burger Bistro. Similarly, we purchase at least 20 cases of Maui Gold pineapples on a daily basis to be used in our dishes at Westin Maui,” explained Ikaika.
He further elaborated that annual events such as Ka’anapali Fresh provide chefs the opportunity to meet and partner farmers, ranchers and fishermen in using their locally-grown produce. When he is not working, Ikaika enjoys fishing, hunting and trying out small eateries or “hole-in-the-wall” places for authentic dishes such as the best poke or barbeque burger – just like any other locals.
His source of inspiration is none other than his father who has held executive chef positions in Hawaii. “Seeing my dad dressed in his white coat and tall hat was most inspiring,” said Ikaika. “It is a respected profession and I grew up watching cooking shows and seeing my dad in action,” he added.