The Journey of a Family
The owner and creative mind of Mala's Mr. Mark Ellman alongside his wife Judy Ellman have lived on Maui for over 31 years. The singular pair met over 40 years ago in a small western town in Los Angeles, where Judy was the bartender and Mark was a cook in the kitchen at a Mexican Restaurant in Calabasas, called Sagebrush Cantina. They fell in love, worked together, and opened their first restaurant in Sherman Oaks California called Cuisine Cuisine, a small Italian eatery, where they made homemade pasta and cultivated a group of true friends. During their time in LA, Mark and Judy had a catering company called "Can't Rock and Roll But Sure Can Cook", which allowed Mark to present his culinary talents. He cooked for the Moody Blues (a Malibu recording studio) for a period of 9 months, he also worked for Ronnie and Hubert Laws, Lenny White, Olivia Newton-John, Frankie Valli, The Beach Boys and, the Band Toto. Mark also worked with Bill Graham providing backstage food for concerts in LA. They have raised a family with their wonderful three daughters, Tina, Ariana, and Michelle. The rest of the family they have raised is a group of exquisite restaurants, which are located on three different Islands in Hawaii. They are Avalon, Maui Tacos, Penne Pasta Café, Mala Ocean Tavern, Honu Seafood & Pizza and Frida’s Mexican Beach House. Their adventure on Maui started when Judy recalled her time on the Island in the 70’s, and was yearning for a more peaceful life other than the hustle and bustle of LA.
In 1985 Mark and Judy landed on Maui and knew right away they were home. In 1987 they opened their highly acclaimed Avalon Restaurant and Bar in downtown Lahaina, where Mark forged a path of Pacific Rim Cuisine. Later on, Mark along with eleven other Hawaiian Chefs created the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement. It was conformed by Roy Yamaguchi, Sam Choy, Peter Merriman, Alan Wong, Roger Dikon, Amy Ferguson Ota, Gary Strehl, Pierre Padovanni, George Mavro, Jean Marie Josselin, and Beverly Gannon. Together they published a compilation of recipes, giving each chef their own chapter, it was the New Cuisine of Hawaii by Janice Wald Henderson.
Mark and Judy sold Avalon in 1998 to concentrate on their small taco stands called Maui Tacos, which they started in 1993 inspired by their beloved Mexican food of Los Angeles. With the help of a friend and partner Shep Gordon, they have opened statewide 11 locations for Maui Tacos.
In 2001 they also opened a small Italian Café called Penne Pasta Café in downtown Lahaina, where Mark cultivates his Italian heritage from the south of the boot, It is a small family eatery serving paper-thin pizzas, pasta and salads, Lamb Osso Bucco, Roast Chicken, and Fresh Island Fish. Penne Pasta Café is now in its 16th year!
In 2004 Mark and Judy opened Mala Ocean Tavern, along with their daughters, Ariana and Michelle, a small oceanside tavern serving the Mediterranean and Pacific Rim, with some Latino-flavored dishes. With their partner Shep Gordon, Mala Wailea was created for the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort, which opened in 2008 and sold in 2016.
mark and shep have been very involved in the community where they raised monies for the Maui Food Bank, organized NY eve concerts held in the Wailea dining room, featuring Alice Cooper, Mick Fleetwood, Steven Tyler, among many other great talents.
Mark has released a book called Practice Aloha, Secrets to Living Life Hawaiian Style
Is a compilation of stories from famous and not so famous people, that live on the land of Aloha.
The profits from the book go to a foundation that is dear to his heart since 1998. Punana Leo O Maui, a school that starts at preschool through junior high. They teach the Hawaiian Language, to perpetuate the culture of the Kanaka Maoli, the indigenous Hawaiian People.
In 2008 Mark sold his beloved company Maui Tacos which he grew to 11 stores in Hawaii, to a franchise partner on the mainland. He also sold Penne Pasta Café after 10 years of serving the Lahaina community.
In 2010 Judy and Mark opened Honu Seafood & Pizza 20 feet away from Mala Ocean Tavern. A quintessential seafood eatery which has a fully unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean with 10 feet from waters edge.
Not ever sitting on their laurels, Mark & Judy opened one more restaurant 20 yards away from Honu, continuing with the tradition of amazing ocean views.
Frida's Mexican Beach House serves traditional Mexican Cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. Frida’s is the 18th restaurant Mark and Judy have built in Hawaii.
Today they all very happy creating great food through organic, healthy, fresh and delicious products. Their restaurants sit on a spot called Mala Wharf, once a great pier that sailors in world war two came ashore to enjoy the whaling town of Lahaina. Mala means Garden in Hawaiian, and it truly is a beautiful spot where you sit at waters edge and gaze upon the islands of Lanai and Molokai while you watch the turtles surf and graze on ogo.
Our locations are la crème of all spots on the west side of Maui, and no other restaurants have such engaging views, the finest tropical drinks and the freshest seafood on the Island of Maui.
Today with Ariana and Michelle (their daughters) managing the Lahaina restaurants, along with Mark’s sister Gerry waiting on tables it is truly a family affair.
Mark and Judy bought a 5 acre piece of land where they have planted 175 Fruit trees for the restaurant. Is also home to 17 goats a flock of chickens and 2 small cottages. They are slowly building a farm to provide the 3 restaurants with organic produce. It is in Lahaina up the mountain overlooking the ocean... Smart thinking!