Isaac Bancaco: My Newest Chef Crush

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So if you are keeping track (and of course you are!) my first chef crush is Bertrand who blinds me with his French charm and won me over with a pulled pork sandwich.

On Maui I met happily married Sheldon who won me over with his deft skill of balancing difference heritages into one menu.

I was surprised to see I would also meet my third chef crush so soon on Maui. Hello Isaac Bancaco.



I had heard of Isaac Bancaco back in Toronto and told Maui Visitors Bureau I wanted to meet him when I visited. Although from Hawaii he had left to be a chef on the mainland and decided to come home. I met him when he was at the Grand Wailea’s restaurant Humuhumunukunuapua’a although now he’s at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. He is known for his unabashedly strong stance on local farming.


I like a man with strong opinions.


And Isaac Bancaco has many of them. He isn’t an idealist that hopes we all just shop at the farmer’s market and the world’s problems are solved. He sees a need for the government subsidizes farmers and making the profession attractive to younger generations. He also explains how the cost of water greatly factors into farming challenges on Maui.

When Isaac orders produce he doesn’t just specify local, he chooses which farm it comes from and has started talking to farmers about  growing things specifically for the hotel to use.


We don’t order from the menu, but let him choose, which I think he had already decided anyway. The flavours are clean and complex. My mother adores the appetizers. Even though it includes raw ahi. She previously swore she dislikes raw tuna and has texture issues with sushi and poke but loves this.


roasted brussel sprouts

The food keeps coming and my only regret is that I don’t have a larger stomach as the dishes are diverse but balanced. I want to try them all.

In the end I ask for a photo and he insists his line be in it as well. Could this guy get any better? Not sure, although my chef crushes are usually platonic I couldn’t help but notice he doesn’t wear a wedding ring.


Disclosure: I was a guest of the Maui Visitors Bureau. They did not request that I write a favourable review. Or develop unrequited crushes on all their chefs, including Isaac Bancaco.



Join the Conversation

  1. Emily in Chile says:

    All of this food is gorgeous, and I love the philosophy behind it. Plus Isaac’s cute!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Definitely worthy of crush status.

  2. I was there at that fateful first meeting with Bertrand Alepee. Seriously, who doesn’t love a Frenchman, especially one who cooks. Those pulled pork sandwiches at Luminato had chocolate in them, maybe? Very rich and delicious. Like Bertrand. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes if I remember there was cocoa in the mix.

  3. Natalie T. says:

    So cute! You know I love a good chef crush story. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Who doesn’t?

  4. Chrystal McKay says:

    ohhh raw fish. nom nom nom! The food looks INCREDIBLE. What exactly IS that second dish? I cant even guess if its fish or just vegetables – but it looks amazing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The second dish is actually four components of various things and the third dish is roasted brussel sprouts.

  5. Chompchomp says:

    Stunning photos and mouth watering dishes. You have such a lovely writing style, I look forward to reading more!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks so much, really kind of you to say.

  6. Sounds like you need a dating website specifically aimed at the culinary profession 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m surprised no one has considered that.

  7. Kieu ~ GQ trippin says:

    Yum.. as always, a delicious post! I’m ready to dig into that 3rd dish!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was all fantastic, I also had a corn soup with crab which was divine.

  8. A Cook Not Mad (Nat) says:

    So glad you had a good time on Maui. The food is amazing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh I will be rolling home if I keep eating like this.

  9. Beautiful photos! And I love the idea that he specifically selected dishes for YOU to try rather than letting his guests make their own selection. It’s such a fun way to eat when you let the chef take over the reins.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      One of my favourite restaurants in Rome served only one meal, you show up and find out what it is. I’d rather have a chef to tell me what to eat, the one time I don’t want to choose.

  10. This looks like some seriously good food. I really love Maui and it looks like you have developed your own love for it too.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I can see why so many people have come here for vacation and just stayed.

  11. Hehe. Told ya.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes you did!

  12. Bret @ Green Global Travel says:

    Love the story and the photos, DO NOT love the fact that I haven’t had breakfast yet. Coincidentally, I’ve been doing a lot of chef-related freelance work lately, so I definitely feel you on the chef crush thing. Right now I’m on a big Southern farm-to-table kick, and of course Atlanta is rife with AMAZING Southern chefs. OK, now I seriously need to go eat something…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have never been to the Southern US but it’s definitely on my list of places for 2013 if only to eat my way through it.

  13. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey says:

    Just as well that Chef Bancaco left Humuhumunukunuapua and moved on to Pineapple Grill…MUCH easier to pronounce! Hope he’s instilling his comprehensive, creative approach to farm-to-tableism with him.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think that’s guaranteed.

  14. Leah Travels says:

    Beautiful, fresh, and surely delicious…I think I have a crush now, too.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m sure many people do after eating here.

  15. Your disclosure lines are killing me 😀

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I have to put them so they may as well be interesting!

  16. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    When I met the owner-chef at Terruno in Cafayate, Argentina, he also insisted on including his line in the photo.

    Gotta love a chef that appreciates the people that make it happen… the farmers and the cooks.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s refreshing as some people have such egos, but it doesn’t appear to be the case here.

  17. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    OMG to be married to a chef…….I would be so fat but so happy! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah the only downside, although I’d get over it.

  18. Christine Martin says:

    wow…am salivating…looks delicious. how long are you in Hawaii for? i absolutely love what you do.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Just a month on Maui, it seemed like it would be a long time but it isn’t long enough.

  19. Ava Apollo says:

    I love the local food movement. Tastes so much better, too!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It just makes so much more sense for an island isolated like Maui.

  20. Christy @ Technosyncratic says:

    I would totally date a chef, especially a cutie like Isaac. 😉

  21. Camels & Chocolate says:

    Uh, how do you even say the name of the restaurant at Grand Wailea? Also, cute cowboys, cute chefs–we’re not getting you out of Hawaii, are we? 😉

  22. Out of the frying pan, into the phwoar!

  23. I am dying for some raw tuna. When asking if the tuna is fresh here the response I got was, yes the tin is fresh. hmmm.

  24. Isaac was as much a treat as the food was. An the food was fabulous! Such a fun night!

  25. Annie - FootTracker says:

    Wow, I like the appetizer!

    I actually like restaurants where the chef chooses what to serve, because usually that means they design something unique for the guests everyday, with fresh ingredients.

  26. Paddy Waller says:

    As always great photos and stomach rumbling recipes.

  27. Annette | Bucket List Journey says:

    My chef crushes change all the time, but right now I am stuck on Tyler Florence! Yummy!

  28. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista says:

    You’re too funny! I like the fact that he works with local farmers who supply his produce. Wonder if he still does this at his new home? Can’t go wrong with the Grand Wailea either!

  29. Good thing it is almost dinner time…

  30. This made me laugh after a very long day. Brava!

  31. Nomadic Samuel says:

    The food looks wonderful! I’m impressed that he supports local farming.

  32. This sounds like the man for you, Ayngelina 🙂

  33. Sebastian says:

    Where is the female version of this chef? 🙂 I would be the first one to visit!!

  34. Cathy Sweeney says:

    I think I have a crush on Isaac just from reading this article and seeing those delicious pics. Keep us posted on relationship status.

  35. Cole @ Four Jandals says:

    While I don’t quite think he is that hot, the food sure looks amazing!

  36. This food looks so yummy! And so does he 🙂

  37. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, yet I have found that the same holds true to the fairer sex. 😉

    Especially when the menu includes either chocolate, or of course… bacon!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Who doesn’t love bacon or chocolate?

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