Peter Merriman was born in 1957 in Pittsburgh, PA, and his mother, the noted Pittsburgh Post Gazette food writer, Woodene (Woody) Merriam, introduced him to the intricacies of food preparation at a young age.
Noting his interest in cooking, she got him a job doing prep work with Master Chef Ferdinand Metz, at the H.J. Heinz Co in Pittsburgh. (Ferdinand Metz later left Heinz to become President of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York.) Peter attended the University of Pennsylvania to study Political Science and in his free time, he cooked for his friends. After graduation, he enrolled in a 3-year apprentice program with Rockefeller’s Rock Resorts, under the auspices of the American Culinary Federation, and cooked in resorts across the United States and Europe, including the Woodstock Inn in Vermont and working in the vineyards of France’s Champagne region.
In early 1983, Chef Peter was hired at the newly opened Mauna Lani Bay Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii, as a cook. He arrived in Hawaii with one suitcase and $75 in his pocket thinking he would stay a few months at the most. He worked his way up from saucier to banquet chef, and two years later in 1985, at the age of 28, he was appointed Executive Chef of the Mauna Lani Resort’s new Gallery Restaurant.
He had fallen in love with the natural beauty of the islands and the rich culture of the people who live there. At his interview for the job as Executive Chef of the Gallery Restaurant, he was asked what type of food he wanted to feature. Without thinking, he said “Regional Cuisine”, and went on to explain how no other restaurants were serving the local fish and produce. He soon found out why that was, because there were no local products available.
He advertised in the papers and went out to the farms, ranches and docks to let the local producers know he wanted whatever they had. “We’re in this together” he told them, “If you grow it or catch it, I’ll buy it, and we all succeed”. Pretty soon he had built solid partnerships, and local producers would try to grow whatever he needed. As he began recruiting other chefs to focus on local foods, “Hawaii Regional Cuisine” was born, with Peter as founding president.
In 1988, Chef Merriman and his wife Vicki opened their own restaurant, Merriman’s, in Opelo Plaza and in 1994, he became partners with TS Restaurants in the new Hula Grill at the Kaanapali Resort on Maui which was touted “the best fish house in the islands”, by Honolulu Magazine.
In 1998, Great Chefs Television was filming Great Chefs of Hawaii and showed up to tape Chef Peter Merriman at Merriman’s where he prepared two appetizers for the Great Chefs of Hawaii series: Grilled Shrimp & Star Fruit Salad (episode #12) and Wok-Charred Ahi (episode #18). He also prepared a Sautéed Mahimahi on Stir-Fried Watercress with Ginger Beurre Blanc and Noodle Cakes entrée (episode #141), for their Great Chefs of the World series.
In 2003, Chef Merriman opened Merriman’s Mediterranean Café in Waikoloa King’s Shops on the Hawaii Island, and in 2008 & 2009, two more restaurants were opened, Merriman’s Kapalua on Maui’s West Side, and Merriman’s Fish House in Poipu, Kauai. Below the fish house, he opened a casual dining space, Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza & Burgers. And in 2011 he launched a new casual dining venture with restaurateur Bill Terry called “Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman”. Two locations have already opened, one on Maui and one on Oahu, with more to come.
Besides founding the “Hawaiian Regional Cuisine”, Chef Peter supports Merriman’s Culinary Scholarships and serves on the Board of Hawaii Land Trust, that protects land in Hawaii.