As an unfulfilled lawyer who left a career in law to pursue my true passions, I'm always excited to hear the wild stories of people who have taken a similar, less conventional path: followed their hearts, sought meaning and joy above all else, and achieved great personal and professional success while doing so.
I was delighted to find some of my fellow like-minded souls on the first night of my recent Hawaiian vacation. Doris and Floyd Christenson, owners of Mama's Fish House on Maui, are a great example of just the kind of kindred spirits I am talking about here.
Having been to Mama's once before, my boyfriend insisted that a road trip to the restaurant--an hour drive from our resort in Kapalua -- was well worth the long haul. Easily convinced by the promise of a romantic, open-aired restaurant with an ocean view, some of the island's best seafood, and a reservation perfectly timed to watch the sunset, I happily agreed to the excursion.
I must admit, I was hoping for a fabulous dinner with a beautiful ocean view--it was our first night in Hawaii, afterall. But what I got was one of the most magical restaurant experiences I've ever had--from a tour of the kitchen by the Executive Chef, replete with a hubbub of cheerful, smiling line chefs (making 900 meals every day!), an introduction to the owners, Doris and Floyd Christenson who still frequent the restaurant, to warm conversation with some of the 320 restaurant staff--who gushed about the positive community that is Mama's Fish House.
(This was the view from our table!)
We were regaled with heartfelt stories about the local fishermen who supply the fish, the third and fourth generation farmers who supply the produce (including our very own server who also happens to be an organic farmer), and the woman who grows all of the lovely flowers in the arrangements she creates that adorn the restaurant. We were presented with leis handmade by the Executive Chef's wife; we were taught the appropriate Hawaiian ritual of lovingly placing them on each other with a kiss on each cheek and instructed on the traditional way leis are worn. We sat in awe as we learned that each and every detail of the restaurant, down to the tablecloths and dishware, supported the local community, and reflected the Christenson's commitment and connection to the island.
Thankfully, all of this Hawaiian community spirit and warmth matched the spectacular taste of the food--we opted for a many-course feast of arguably some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. Our evening at Mama's wasn't just setting the bar high for the rest of our trip--it was setting the bar high, period.
It's one thing to eat a great meal or dine at a beautiful location. It's another experience entirely to eat at a place with the special kind of "mana," or "energy," that filled the place.
With Tiki torches ablaze, the restaurant was abuzz with the warmth of a loving family gathering. It was gorgeous, sure, with the oceanfront view, fragrant Hawaiian breeze and Mama's charming and genuine island decor--shells and pieces from old sugarcane mills and aging photographs of the Christensons sailing journeys across the Pacific Ocean.
But it was truly lit up by the magic that the Christensons created out of their love and passion--for island living, for the authentic flavors of French Polynesian cuisine, and for creating a business that felt more like a family, far from their original homes.
Decades ago, before Maui was the tourist destination it is today, before people frequented the North Shore of the island where Mama's is located, and before Maui restaurants were even serving fish (if you can believe it, they mostly served steak!), the Christensons started building their dream fish restaurant in a small plantation house on the beach.
Needless to say, the small plantation house has been expanded, and now Mama's even has a beautiful Inn and two incredible guesthouses (we couldn't help but peek into the Inn for future reference).
This isn't just a restaurant-on-the-beach business anymore, this has become a huge operation. But more importantly, it's one big supportive community operation.
I loved every aspect of my night at Mama's Fish House. I loved the food. I loved the endless stories of the hundreds of lives--of fisherman and farmers and servers and other staff and purveyors--that the Christensons have touched. But what I loved most of all was the Christenson's personal story. They sailed the Pacific, they fell in love with Polynesia and Maui, they dared to make their dream a reality.
Their story proves what I've always believed to be the key ingredient to real success: following your heart.
And the incredible Polynesian flavors and foods that the Christensons share with us don't hurt, either.
You can find more about Mama's here.
And if you're looking for more inspiration or tools to follow your own heart, check out Alexis's free online webinar workshop by clicking here!