Celebrating 20 Years With Roy’s

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 01, 2008
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Ming Tsai is one of 15 chefs participating in Roy’s Sunday grazing event

I bumped into Roy Yamaguchi the other morning. I was running up the stairs of the newly renovated Hawaii Kai restaurant and he was headed across the hallway into his office. Besides serving as a reminder that it’s probably time I stopped running everywhere, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask how plans are coming along for the biggest culinary event to hit the Islands.

“Things are going great, actually,” says Roy, who’s just completed a nine-city tour culminating with a Honolulu Gala Dinner Oct. 4 and a grazing event Oct. 5.

That Roy’s Restaurant in Hawaii Kai is celebrating 20 years in the industry is really no surprise, but 37 Roy’s Restaurants are celebrating, too, and that is quite incredible.

“It all happened so fast, really,” says Roy, ruminating on these past 20 years. “It’s been pretty amazing. A lot of great things have happened to our company, and that’s what I want to showcase on Oct. 4 and 5.”

There are those who doubted a restaurant in Hawaii Kai would ever work, let alone be the catalyst for 36 others around the world, but Roy always felt differently.

“Our whole business concept is built on trust and family,” he says, “and in 1988 we wanted to come to a neighborhood where we could fit in and be part of a community. I knew Hawaii Kai was a place with families and children, and I felt it would give us the strong foundation we needed to build our company.”

Helping to celebrate the success of the restaurants are 20 of the top chefs in the world today. Guests at the $10,000-per-table Pier 38 event will enjoy food from Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Sam Leong, Nobu, Francois Payard, Alex Stratta, Charlie Trotter and Tetsuya Wakuda. But don’t rush out to get tickets for this one - seats were snapped up weeks ago.

There’s still an opportunity, however, to buy tickets for the Oct. 5 event at KCC. President of Roy’s Hawaii, Rainer Kumbroch, is immersed in details but ever-enthusiastic.

“We think that when people go to the Sunday night grazing event, they will be blown away by the food,” says Rainer. At $200, the tickets aren’t cheap, but as Kumbroch says, “There will be 15 chefs in attendance Sunday night (including Tony Liu, Hiro Sone and Lisa Doumani, Ming Tsai, Yuji Wakiya, Alan Wong and Floyd Cardoz). To go to any one of their restaurants - if you could even get there - would cost that much and more.”

I asked Roy whom he’d visit first if he had to make a choice about standing in line for food, and while he understandably didn’t want to name a favorite, he did have this to say about Sam Leong.

“I think, for people in Hawaii, Sam Leong might be of great interest. His restaurant is not that easy to get to from here (it’s in Singapore) and this is an opportunity to experience Chinese food in a very modern and sophisticated way. Sam is incredibly talented.”

And after the party’s over? It’s back to work for Roy and his team.

“We have a lot of guests,” he says in something of an under-statement. “They are all very important to us. We have to take care of them one by one, and that’s something that you have to wake up every day and do over and over again.”

For a full list of participating chefs and to listen to an interview with Roy Yamaguchi, go to wineanddinehawaii.com.

For tickets for Sunday’s grazing event, call 396-7970 or purchase at the door.

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