The University of Hawaii – Maui College runs the Maui Culinary Academy, a respectable cooking school. The students — who in just a little while will be on the line at some of the island’s best restaurants — have to practice, practice, and practice. One of the ways they do this is by making all of the food court offerings, which makes it one of the best lunch places in central Maui.
The dining room is a noisy cafeteria with big round tables, so if you’re thinking of sitting by yourself, think again. You’ll find sandwiches, sushi, a great salad bar, hot entrées, and pastries, all at student prices (average $3-7 per person). The food court is open every weekday during the college term, and it’s kind of fun to see how eager the students in their chef whites are to make sure you’re happy with your meal. Be sure to take a spin by the pastry room windows at the far end of the cafeteria, where you can gawk at the student’s creative attempts at wedding cakes.
If you’re looking for a more upscale lunch, on Wednesdays and Fridays the students serve a four course meal in Class Act, their snazzy restaurant upstairs, which actually has a darn nice view of Kahului Harbor. Seating is limited, so be sure to call for reservations. If you forget, you can snag a seat at the bar. To be clear, this is a class, not a restaurant — it’s only open when class is actually in session. Every week it’s a different cuisine, based on what skills the students are honing. At only $30, participating as a guinea pig diner is a great deal. Call for menus, dates, and reservations. The academy also produces its own line of culinary products: flavored sugars and salts, salt rubs, jellies, and a terrific cookbook filled with recipes representing the island’s full range of ethnic flavors.
Address: 310 W. Kaahumanu Ave., Pa’ina Building, Maui Culinary Academy, Kahului, Central Maui
Hours: (Food Court) M-F 11am-12:30pm when school is in session; (A Class Act) when class is in session