To be a successful restaurateur you need to have an immense desire, passion and work ethic for the foods, dishes and dining experience you wish to create. For chef Chai Chaowasaree, it took even more, because aside from the tumultuous hours and insanity that can arise in any kitchen, he had to overcome a language barrier that could have easily set him back altogether.
“If I can come from a foreign country and not speak English and not really understand a lot about business and can become who I am today, there is no reason anyone else who has a passion for food can’t do the same,” says Chaowasaree.
Since opening Singha Thai Cuisine 23 years ago, Chaowasaree who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Aug. 15, 2001 has only been more motivated to achieve the goals he set out for himself since he was younger. Eleven years ago Chaowasaree opened Chai’s Island Bistro and it continues to be a dining emblem of quality food and entertainment. A member of both the Hawaii Fusion Cuisine Movement with other notable chefs such as Sam Choy, Alan Wong and Russell Siu and Hawaii’s Island Chefs, Chaowasaree is eager to help promote and utilize the fresh agricultural products Hawaii has to offer.
“We all just try to create awareness of consuming and supporting local agriculture, where you do get better quality products, they are fresher and nutritionally better,” he says.
Expanding to the skies, beginning last November with Hawaiian Airlines’ inaugural flight to Harned, Japan, Chaowasaree was named Hawaiian’s executive chef, with his food creations served on all domestic and international flights.
“To be able to reach that many passengers a year is a huge number and it is a challenge, but it is something that makes your hard work feel appreciated,” he says.
With an award-winning cookbook, The Island Bistro Cookbook, and his own cooking show, Dining Out with Chai, which airs on KARE Saturdays at 5:30 p.m., you may think Chaowasaree would be contented. Continually focused, he has been working the last couple of years on expanding his catering services.
“The catering has been getting bigger, it has about tripled from this time last year. With engagements of up to 1,000 people, I like to use students from KCC and LCC. It gives us a chance to talk and educate them about cooking,” Chaowasaree says.
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