A Dream Job By The Sea

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 16, 2005
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Adam Hightower
For new Bali by the Sea executive chef
Adam Hightower, it’s all part of the plan

When Adam Hightower, the new executive chef at Bali By The Sea, was 4 years old, he told his parents he wanted to be a chef. When he was 16, they bought him a car so he could drive himself across town when junior high school was done for the day and attend culinary school. The condition was that he pay them back.

“They got paid back with meals,” says the talented young chef, “and now I’m in Hawaii and they couldn’t be happier.”

Hightower is an extreme example of what you can do with a plan, dedication, enthusiasm and the will to succeed.

Like Tiger Woods with his famous chart of Jack Nicklaus’ victories pinned to his bedroom wall, Hightower sat down and wrote a 15-year plan that concluded with “head chef at an oceanfront fine-dining restaurant in Hawaii.”

There are several remarkable things about this. He wrote the plan when he was just 15 years old, and he’s about three years ahead of schedule. When we met last week to chat about his menu debut at Bali By The Sea, the chef was celebrating his 28th birthday.

“My original goal was 10 states in 10 years, he says, “but Hawaii was always the dream. My father was born in Honolulu and my parents used to bring me here as a child. When I was about 12 I got on the plane and told them that one day I would be living and working in Hawaii.”

But don’t confuse a lack of years with little experience. Hightower is as qualified as they come, and perfectly ready for the job in hand.

“I attended culinary school when I was still in high school,” says the infectiously enthusiastic Hightower, “and from there I worked around the country, choosing to go where I could work with master chefs.”

Hightower has trained under a total of six master chefs (there are just 60 in America).

Food figured early in the young chef’s life. His father is a biophysicist who was required to travel frequently and insisted that the family came too. Adam’s mom is a teacher, so she became his tutor.

“I think because we traveled a lot I was exposed to different things as a child,” he says. ” I fell in love with all the different foods. I had my first taste of beef carpaccio and sashimi when I was 11.”

Originally from Rochester, Mich., Hightower comes to Bali via the Houston Country Club, and has quietly been working at Hilton Hawaiian Village for almost a year.

“The only position here that was open when I first arrived was chef tournant,” he says, “so I took that.” Appropriately, chef tour-nant is a term that refers to a chef skilled at all stations. Hightower was happy to fill the gap. And then wait for the opportunity to shine. (Roberto Los Banos, executive chef at Bali prior to Hightower, has been promoted to executive sous chef of the hotel and joins Daniel La Garde overseeing the hotels’ catering and all dining operations.)

And for those who frequent Bali By The Sea regularly, Dec. 4 is the day to begin making reservations. Hightower’s completely new menu debuts then.

“The integrity of the restaurant will stay the same,” he says, “but as my style is European, then people will see that influence too.”

So what’s next, now that he’s reached the end of the master plan?

“Well, I’m so happy to be here I’m going to stay awhile,” he says with a huge grin. “And then I guess I have to get back to writing the next stage of the plan.”

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