Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection Welcomes Executive Chef Matt Raso at the Iconic CanoeHouse
THE ISLAND OF HAWAII, HAWAII (October 2, 2019) – Chef Matt Raso had a great job in Miami, but he missed Hawai‘i. “I love the people here,” he says. “I love coming to work where people are smiling.” When Sanjiv Hulugalle, the general manager of Mauna Lani, invited Matt back to the Islands to do a tasting menu, he jumped at the opportunity. He’s now at the helm of the CanoeHouse restaurant, and you can bet he smiles as he heads to work.
Matt found his life’s passion in the United States Marine Corps—not on the field, but in the kitchen cooking for his fellow marines. Post-enlistment, the young chef enrolled in the culinary school at the Art Institute of Dallas where he honed his considerable natural talent. Just three years after graduating, he was given the opportunity by world renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and joined the launch team for Nobu Dallas in 2005.
Under Nobu’s tutelage, Matt rose quickly through the ranks from Sous Chef to Executive Chef. By 2007, he was responsible for running the popular restaurant. Dallas gourmands praised his meticulous presentation and inventive flavors. He mastered Nobu’s signature fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, while adding a Southern twist in dishes such as succulent king crab with ginger and rhubarb salsa.
At Nobu Dallas, Matt found another passion: his future wife. He and the restaurant’s assistant manager Yuka Hinoda were married, and in 2014 they decided to take the leap and relocate to Hawai‘i. At Nobu Waikīkī in the Parc Hotel, the husband and wife team assumed the role of Executive Chef and General Manager, respectively.
Matt introduced truffle-crusted king crab to the menu here, prompting Honolulu magazine food editor Martha Cheng to declare it one of the most decadent dining experiences in Honolulu. She awarded her highest praise to a recipe that blended local ingredients with Southern sensibility: kiawe-smoked scallops paired with lychee.
Unsurprisingly, Nobu tapped Matt to be the executive chef at his restaurant in Miami. After a few years in Miami, he felt drawn to return to the Islands. “When I got here,” he says, “I felt immediately connected.” He’s excited to work with Hawai‘i Island’s terrific bounty of produce—everything from locally raised abalone to fresh heart of palm. “There’s so much that is abundant here,” he says, as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. “The mangos and avocados are unbelievable.” Chef Matt is committed to delivering quality, unpretentious cuisine, and local delicacies such as smoked venison might find their way onto the new Canoe House menu, where tradition and innovation mingle.
“Everybody has a story about the CanoeHouse,” says the chef. “I think that’s exciting. I want to preserve the memories and experiences people have, to hold true to the history of this restaurant.” While paying homage to the past, chef Matt looks forward to introducing live action stations and curating multiple distinct dining experiences for guests to enjoy. He can’t wait to share what he calls “elevated cuisine in a comfortable environment.”
Speaking of the environment, the forward-thinking chef seeks to transform the restaurant into a zero-waste operation—or as close to it as possible. With chef Matt in the kitchen, the CanoeHouse can continue its thirty-plus year reputation as one of Hawai‘i’s most cherished restaurants.