Star TV Chef Brings Talent to Friendly Isle

If you haven’t heard about her from her Top Chef appearances on TV, you will certainly soon get to know Mrs. Mia Gaines-Alt for her delicious creations in the kitchen of Hotel Molokai. Having only been on the Island a little over two weeks, Gaines-Alt has her hands full: as of October 28, she had worked 12 of the last 14 days.

However, none of the challenges in the kitchen can discourage this talented and motivated chef from rising to the occasion. Beyond owning her own restaurant, Feed the People in California, Gaines-Alt proved her culinary talents time after time on Season 2 of the hit reality TV show, Top Chef. After making it to the eighth episode, she then attended the season finale on the Big Island, which is where she first decided that Hawaii was the place for her. Gaines-Alt found the posting for the position at Hotel Molokai on a website called, and three months after a visit to the Island, she was already settled in and hard at work.   

Born in Oakdale, California in a community of 7,000 people it wasn’t difficult for Gaines-Alt to instantly feel at home in Molokai. Having grown up in a family of cooks, who originated in the South, she began her own culinary adventures quite young. Soul food is Mia’s specialty, and much to her surprise not far from many of the specialties in the Islands.

Foods such as oxtails, pigs feet, and sweet potatoes find homes in both Southern and Hawaiian kitchens, not to mention the similarities between such foods as taro and greens. Noticing these similarities, Gaines-Alt hopes to both learn from and add to the local culinary palate. Her first goal at the hotel, before jumping into new things, is to return the food back to the splendor of days gone by.  

Gaines-Alt’s work ethic in the kitchen, at work, and in life is providing a good starting point. She wants her staff to be proud of the place that they work at. She chooses to see her own place there as “not just a job, but as an adventure,” and hopes to develop a consistency and homemade touch to dishes throughout the menu.

Changes, such as preparation techniques, might not initially be noticeable, but will rather help to create a welcoming and dependable environment that people will want to return to again and again. Gaines-Alt has also had to make several adjustments of her own, beyond learning where everything is in her newly renovated kitchen, she is experiencing what it is like to work on an island and to not be able to call in ingredients at a moments notice. 

Moving to Molokai was an entire lifestyle change for Gaines-Alt and her family, which includes her mother, husband and three children. Having already enrolled two of her children in a Hawaiian emersion program, they do not plan on moving away any time soon. Gaines-Alt could not speak enough about the amazing sense of ohana on the Island, as well as the incredible welcome that was extended to her and her family. Comparing it to a feeling of coming home she said: “the welcome I received, was not just like welcome here or welcome to Molokai, or welcome back, but more like welcome home.”


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