by Deborah Gushman
photo by Dana Edmunds
Spices have always inspired grand gestures. Think of Marco Polo, venturing halfway around the world in search of cinnamon—or Wolfgang Puck, bravely sprinkling chervil on an upscale frozen pizza. Now there’s something so spicy—and so delicious—happening on Maui that you can almost smell the aromas all the way over on Oahu. Mediterranean Chicken with Preserved Lemons, Kama‘ole Crab Cakes with Herb Aioli, Chilled Tiger Prawns with Mint-Passion Fruit Dressing: These are just a few of the alluring dishes on the menu at Spices, an airy new seaview restaurant in Kihei.
A man for all seasonings:
Spices Chef Zack
The enterprise is the brainchild (and heart-child) of executive chef Zouhair (Zach) Zairi, a tall, intense French-Moroccan who moved to the Islands from Atlanta in 2001 and describes himself as a graduate of the culinary School of Hard Knocks. ("I burned a lot, and learned a lot," Zach says of his tough apprenticeship in perfectionist restaurant kitchens in the South of France.) That meticulous approach is reflected in the philosophy of cooking Zach brings to Spices: everything made from scratch; everything cooked to order; local produce used whenever possible. All the greens and herbs are organic (a few—cilantro, basil, dill—are even grown on site, next to a waterfall in the restaurant’s garden), and the tuna salad is made with fresh sushi-grade ahi. Chef Zach even makes his own preserved lemons, picturesquely immersed in a potion of lemon juice, bay leaves, rock salt and black peppercorns. "I love living on Maui, and I love what I’m doing," Zach says. "We’re here to serve great food—and, hopefully, to add a little spice to people’s lives."