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Chef Paris Nabavi hopes to revolutionize the way families eat at school and at home

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Mar 3, 2016

Chef Paris Nabavi (back row, left) and Francisco Mendoza (back row, right) enjoy a Grow Some Good school garden Harvest Salsa Day with the students at Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary School.

WEST MAUI – As exemplified by the success of his restaurants and his tireless community service efforts, Chef Paris Nabavi is well known for his commitment to the West Maui community. Chef Nabavi, of Persian descent, studied culinary arts in classic French tradition in London. While traveling the world, cooking and tasting many different cuisines, he eventually worked his way up the corporate ladder within the Fairmont Hotels.

“I arrived in West Maui, by way of Texas, in 1989 to serve as director of food and beverage for Kapalua Bay Hotel,” said Chef Nabavi. “However, four years later I was ready for a new challenge and left the corporate world to open my first restaurant.”

The award-winning Pizza Paradiso Mediterranean Grill opened in 1995 and relocated to Honokowai Marketplace in 1998, still serving Maui with fresh Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern food.

A deep passion for fresh, nutritious food at reasonable prices drives all of Chef Nabavi’s business ventures. In 2004, he opened the award-winning Cilantro Mexican Grill, which quickly garnered so many faithful patrons that the space could no longer accommodate the demand. Most recently, Chef Nabavi expanded his menu and space into another award-winning Mexican restaurant, Sangrita Grill and Cantina, in Kaanapali. His numerous honors include Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine’s 2015 “Aipono Lifetime Achievement Award” and “Best Mexican Restaurant,” Hawaii Magazine’s 2015 “Best New Restaurant” and MauiTime Weekly’s 2014 “Best New Bar.” In 2013, Chef Nabavi was awarded “Exceptional Small Businessman of the Year” for Maui County.

Busy as he is running two establishments and catering operations, Chef Nabavi makes it a priority to give back to the community. Every few months, he and his wife, Donna, open their home to a group of people, cook a traditional Persian menu and share a few secrets from his family’s recipes.

“In lieu of payment, every guest donates to Grow Some Good, a Maui-based nonprofit that establishes edible classrooms, via school gardens, to support curriculum and inspire better nutrition choices,” explained Chef Nabavi.

“My next Grow Some Good cooking event is a Persian New Year dinner for up to 25 guests on March 19th.”

Currently, Grow Some Good school gardens are in three West Side schools plus others throughout the island. On March 12, the fourth annual Grow Some Good’s Taste of School Gardens event is being held at Hotel Wailea’s Sunset Lawn. The dishes being served are inspired by all the good things growing in the school gardens.

“This fundraising event features Maui’s premiere chefs coming together to support school gardens and inspire our future farmers, chefs, teachers, scientists and community leaders,” Chef Nabavi said. “Guests will also enjoy fine wine, live music and ocean sunsets.”

Chef Nabavi also helps to fund the purchase of organic seeds for 52 school gardens in Maui County through the Maui School Garden Network and is the founder of The Nabavi Legacy Fund, which promotes a yearly dine-around program called RSVP Maui (Restaurants Supporting Vital Programs). This collaborative effort recruits food and beverage establishments into Maui’s healthy kids and local food movement. Benefiting organizations include Maui Culinary Academy, Imua Family Services, Grow Some Good, Maui School Garden Network, Book Trust and Maui Academy of Performing Arts.

Recently partnering with the American Heart Association, Chef Nabavi is leading a program, “Kids Cook With Heart,” for Lahaina public schools that includes chefs mentoring students in healthy cooking classes. The participating chefs are: Chef Lyndon Honda, Lahainaluna High School; Chef Rob Mason, Lahaina Intermediate School; Chef Elizabeth McDonald, Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School; and Chef Riko Bartolome, King Kamehameha III Elementary School.

“We hope to promote a generation of student leaders inspired to study and pursue careers in science, technology, medicine and mathematics spanning elementary through high school ages,” said Chef Nabavi. “It is important to start their education early and inspire children to become actively involved in every aspect of sustainable living. My mission is to change the way that children eat through education and engagement. I hope to revolutionize the way families eat at school and at home!”

Chef Nabavi realizes that each of us has the kuleana (responsibility and privilege) to educate and nourish our children. “I am passionate about bringing healthy eating, sustainable growing practices and fun back into the way we eat,” he commented.

For more information on Chef Nabavi’s restaurants, home-fundraiser dinners and numerous programs, visit www.chefnabavi.com.

For information on the upcoming Taste of School Gardens fundraising event on Saturday, March 12, at the Hotel Wailea Sunset Lawn, or for volunteer opportunities in school gardens, go to www.growsomegood.org or call (808) 269-6300.