The Excellence Of Chef Mavro

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 03, 2008
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Chef Mavro with Chef de Cuisine Kevin Chong

It’s been an incredible month for Chef Mavro. First Gayot awards him 18 out of a possible 20  points and names him one of the 40 best restaurateurs in the nation, and next he learns that AAA have bestowed their highest culinary award.  “I am so happy,” says chef with a huge grin. “It’s not my 5 Diamond, though,” he adds. “It’s the 5 Diamond of everyone who works here.” 

He has a point, because AAA’s 5 Diamond is one of those near unachievable heights attainable only through teamwork. What’s remarkable about the achievement is that Chef Mavro, the restaurant,  becomes the first chef-owned, non-hotel restaurant in the state to win the award. 

To put the accolade in perspective, I did a little investigating on the criterion a restaurant must meet to earn the award, and I spoke to the man charged with passing on the good news and presenting the  coveted shield, AAA Hawaii Regional Manager, Richard Velazquez.  

I do have the pleasure of telling the restaurants of their ratings,” says Velazquez, “but I’m sworn to secrecy. Some, like Chef Mavro are extra special. When you get to present the AAA 5 Diamond plaque and pin to a chef owner it’s really an honor.” 

It’s not an award that’s easy to win, Velazquez agrees, adding that he believes the culinary recognition does much for Hawaii. “The  dedication to excellence in hospitality and food in Hawaii is incredible. Our islands benefit from these highly rated achievements.” 


AAA 5 Diamond Award winners make up just 0.27 percent of the more than 60,000 Diamond rated hotels and restaurants in America. You can’t “buy” one through advertising, and restaurateurs have absolutely no idea when an inspector visits. Chef Mavro was one of only eight new restaurants added this year. He joins a list that includes La Mer at Halekulani (in its 19th consecutive year), Thomas Keller’s  The French Laundry, Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, Robuchon, Joel Robuchon’s  acclaimed restaurant at MGM Grand Hotel, and Alex at The Wynn. The tough criterion includes greeting guests by name on arrival, and serving an amouse bouche (tasty bite sized appetizer pre dinner).  Lighting must be “perfect,” seats must be upholstered, and silverware and stemware must be high quality and sparkling. Words that appear on the AAA rating guideline sheet include “meticulous,” “without exception,”  “consistently exceeding guest expectations,” “expert knowledge,” flawless execution” and  “luxurious.’’ 

When you look at the AAA standard you say, ‘no way are we ever going to make it,’” says Chef Mavro. In fact, there are so many categories and meticulous detail, it’s a wonder that anyone ever wins at all. “The award is stringent,” admits Velazquez. “The standards are extremely high.” 

But for those familiar with Chef Mavro and his love affair with flavors and with food, the award comes as no surprise.  The entire restaurant experience for him is something of a  search for perfection. “We are always looking,” he says, “always trying to be better.” 

On the all-too-rare occasions that I visit Chef Mavro, I always come away with the feeling that the staff is among the most passionate, spirited and completely non-intimidating in Hawaii. And now they have a special plaque to prove it. 

You don’t have to be a big restaurant to seek perfection,” says Mavro. 

For more information on the AAA 5 Diamond Award and a complete list of 2009 winners: To see Chef Mavro’s new fall menu and to make reservations: And to hear Chef Mavro chat with me about his award : 

Happy eating!


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