ʻUlu Ambassador: Chef Dan Robayo

Dan Robayo - Chef de Cuisine at Kohanaiki

"Our staples and the ancient canoe crops are communal by nature...Preservation, education, and a knowledge of how to work with these ingredients is paramount to our sustainability." - Dan Robayo

Dan Robayo moved to Hawaiʻi Island with his wife and two young children in 2017 to open Magics Beach Grill in Kailua-Kona as Executive Chef. His cooking is influenced by his father’s Venezuelan heritage and his mother’s southern upbringing, while his understanding of Hawaiʻi comes from his wife’s lineage – a long line of Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaiʻiʻs Honokaʻa region to work the sugarcane fields in the early 1900s.

As a lifelong chef, Robayo builds relationships through the inherent wisdom of food, believing that community can be built by sharing a meal. Earlier in his career, he honed his skills in some of the top kitchens on the East Coast and in Portland, Oregon. At Magics Beach Grill, he works with Hawaiʻi’s diverse agriculture to defy expectations and hone local classics.

Robayo’s mentality of wanting to work with ingredients “grown here, not flown here” led him to discover a new world of ingredients when he arrived to Hawai’i. Within the first week, he picked an underripe ‘ulu off a tree and began experimenting. After many failed attempts to create something delicious, he reached out to Maureen Datta, owner of local farm and food hub Adaptions, Inc.

Danʻs Recipe: Crispy Fried 'Ulu Wedges

See Featured Recipe
“She hooked me up with some more and I started playing more with it,” he said. “She was definitely the first person who guided me with it.”

After having success with a velvety batch of hummus, Robayo realized ‘ulu’s versatility, which he described as “sweet, fibrous and adaptable to any application.” Tapping into his South American upbringing, he tested a recipe for tostones next and his ʻulu journey has flourished from there.

Robayo still works with Datta to this day.

“Our ohanas are close and she is my access to 75% of the farms we deal with at Magic’s,” he said.

By focusing on seasonal ingredients and promoting sustainability for our community and future generations, Robayo works as an ally to help increase awareness of Hawaiʻi's abundant agricultural resources.

@magicsbeachgrill - IG
@magicsbeachgrill - FB
@magicbeachgrill - Twitter


Dan’s the man when it comes to supporting the co-op and helping us tell the story of "how" and "why" we advocate indigenous crops.Try his easy-to-make recipe using local co-op ‘ulu. [uc-featured-product handle="ulu-quarters-mature-skin-on" description="Mature ‘ulu is similar in taste and texture to potatoes and can be substituted for such in virtually any recipe!"]

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published