Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Hualalai

Executive Chef Nick Mastrascusa is Chef de Cuisine at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s Beach Tree. This casual beach restaurant is a long way from the more urban Four Season’s 57 Restaurant in New York City, where Chef Nick worked before moving to Hawaii. His knack of knowing what people like for both casual and elegant dishes was honed while going out to dinner six nights a week in New York.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Chef Nick is charismatic and absolutely passionate about his food. Of course, he has stellar culinary credentials, starting with a master’s degree from the prestigious CIA, otherwise known as the  Culinary Arts School at Greystone in California. What sets Chef Nick apart, however, is his uncanny ability to create fresh, creative, yet simple dishes that appeal to both guests and residents alike on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Ceviche Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Inspiration comes from all sources and oftentimes from family. The ceviche, for example, was inspired by Chef Nick’s wife, while fishing one summer in Uruguay. The original fish Chef Nick used in Uruguay was “Corvina,” but in Hawaii he uses Onaga (red snapper).

Another family inspiration is seen in Chef Nick’s popular mango gazpacho, where the addition of fresh mango and ripe,  yellow tomatoes is added to an otherwise traditional gazpacho. This dish reflects both Italian and Spanish influences on the menu. Not so surprising, since Chef Nick’s father is from Sicily and his mother from Spain. “This is where Spain meets Hawaii!,” says Chef Nick. One word describes both the ceviche and the gazpacho. Delicious!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Whether it’s a fabulous salad, a simple wrap, a shared plate in the al fresco lounge or the fresh fish of the day grilled to order, you will find  both casual lunch and elegant dinner options. Every dish will reflect Chef Nick’s creative flair and is guaranteed to be home made using absolutely fresh ingredients. Whether it’s the  beef caprese salad, carpaccio with citrus and avocado, pan seared scallops with corn puree, fresh salads or even lobster ravioli, you will love the food.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Tonight’s Specials!

The menu is changed three times a year and every night there are specials. The board for today’s specials feature opah, which is a deep red, orange bodied fish rich in flavor, due to its fat content, and  found in the Hawaiian Islands. Lucky diners!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Fresh Produce Farm to Table

Only the best ingredients will do  for the Beach Tree. Chef Nick was proud to say that the Beach Tree Restaurant uses more than l60 ingredients from local farms. He opened a box and pealed back newspaper that was covering a freshly picked variety of young lettuce. The multi colored selection, shown in the photo above, was destined for that night’s salads. Talk about fresh!

 Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Imported From Italy

What can’t be grown or caught on the Hawaiian Islands is flown in from wherever the best can be found. That means if Chef Nick needs prosciutto, you can be sure it’s being flown in from Friuli, Italy. In fact, he confesses to eating about 10 slices of prosciutto a day to keep his energy up.

What about Parmesan cheese? That would be the 90 to 100 pounds of Parmigiano Reggiano flown in from Parma each week. Extra virgin olive oil? Aged balsamic vinegar? Of course, that would be flown in from Villa Manodori, next to Modena, Italy. Chef Nick calls the EVOO and balsamic vinegar “The boyfriend and the girlfriend.”

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

OO Flour is the secret!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Even the flour used to make pizzas, pastas and breads is imported from Italy. It’s called “OO” because the flour is ground extra fine. It comes from the winter harvest, and this hearty wheat flour boasts more protein than normal flour. The OO flour for the  thin-crusted pizza better holds the sauce (and is healthier) than normal flour. I could honestly eat  the flat bread all day.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

One guest shared with Chef Nick that the pasta dishes, from the lobster risotto, lasagna with veal osso bucco, rigatoni, fettuccine, linguini, gnocchi, or papardelle,  at Beach Tree rivaled those at restaurant Cipriani. Now that’s a compliment!

One of Chef Nick’s specialties is his paella. Before opening the Beach Tree restaurant, the owners of the Four Seasons were flying to the hotel to sample the proposed tasting menu. everyone had heard about Chef Nick’s paella, but the specific chorizo, saffron and rice had not yet arrived from Spain. So, the tasting had to be postponed. Chef Nick would not allow substitute ingredients, even if it meant delays for the tasting, much to the chagrin of hotel management.

Finally, several weeks later, all the ingredients from Spain were in the kitchen. For the official tasting, Chef had four enormous paella pans for serving, each one so large that it required four waiters to present to the diners. Today, guests can get their paella individually served, or if you are curious to see these enormous paella pans, you’ll have to bring a crowd and have a catered affair.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

The People Who Make It Happen

Chef Nick starts our interview by saying that it is a team effort that makes any restaurant successful. During my tour of the kitchen, Chef Nick  introduced me to every member of his culinary team and wanted to make sure I had a photo of  each one. I wish I had room to share the faces that reflected the enthusiasm behind every dish that leaves the kitchen. Each one clearly loved working in what can best be described as a setting fit for Hawaiian royalty.

– The Gourmet Review

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