Friday - January 12, 2007 Share Del.icio.us | Podcast | WineAndDineHawaii.com
Keith Ogata is executive chef at the newly opened Lily Koi Restaurant and Lounge in Aiea (site of the old Buffet 100). He trained at Kapiolani Community College and then spent a number of years working with famed chef and restaurant guru Joachim Splichal. He returned to Hawaii to open Lily Koi late last year, and has developed a menu that includes braised pork belly, pork chops, rib eye, ahi salad, steamed clams and his soon-tobe-famous short ribs.
Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in Kaneohe, went to Castle and then graduated from KCC.
And then Vegas?
Well, I worked in a few places here and in California and then I started working for Joachim Splichal and he sent me around the country - eventually to Pinot Brasserie at The Venetian.
What did you learn most from working with Joachim?
Organization, for one thing. He taught me to be ready for everything. I also learned a lot about flavors - which ones truly go well together and which don’t.
How do you describe the food at Lily Koi?
Different! It’s a mix between French, Californian and Hawaii.
Well, there are sauces and cooking techniques that are classically French, there are flavors and a style that is Californian, and there are the Asian influences and local flavors of Hawaii.
Give me an example of a dish that represents Lily Koi.
The Ahi Tartare Salad. It’s like a poke, made with local fish, California avocados and served on top of greens. The short ribs are really popular too - local people love the flavor, and they’re by far the biggest selling dish.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The long hours and the fact that you don’t get any holidays!
Definitely the reward of making people happy. It means you haven’t spent all day back in the kitchen wasting your time. You’ve actually made someone feel good.
Is there anyone you’d like to cook for?
Both of my grandfathers. They never really got a chance to see me cook at this level.
Anywhere that has good sushi. In Vegas I used to go to Osaka a lot.
What would you say to anyone who peeks into Lily Koi and thinks it looks a little fancy?
It might seem that way because of the tablecloths and the setting, but we just have a family-style atmosphere that’s a little nicer than normal.
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