Chef Priester Takes Soul On The Road

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - August 10, 2011
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Chef Sean Priester at Soul. Jo McGarry photo

Sean Priester is on the move.

But there’s no need for regulars at his Waialae restaurant to panic.

The only part of Soul that’s moving is Priester’s food mobile, Soul Patrol.

More than a year into running his first restaurant, the popular chef, who specializes in Southern food with a contemporary twist, has decided to put Soul Patrol back on the streets. Or rather the street. “I had always envied the parking spot on the top of Alakea Street,” he explains, “and when I found out the spot was available, I thought if ever there was an opportunity for something to work at lunch, then this is it.”

On the menu Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. you’ll find versions of Soul’s signature dishes, including fried catfish, buttermilk fried chicken and chili, Portuguese sausage gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and the king of comfort foods, Southernstyle macaroni and cheese.

And with a brand new lunchtime audience, there’s a new opportunity for Priester to get creative.

“We’re doing a smoked brisket sandwich in the style of a Philly cheesesteak,” he says, “and it’s proving to be pretty popular. And we’re developing a recipe using Hamakua mushrooms with bacon over cheesy grits.”

Devotees of Southern food can expect to see another popular dish make a more regular appearance on the menu at both Soul and Soul Patrol, as red beans and rice becomes part of a regular rotation of dishes.

“We only had it on the menu once,” Priester says, “but it was really popular, so we’re bringing it back.”

All this while working on perfecting that signature Southern-style sandwich, the po’boy.

“We’re working on a variety of po’boys including shrimp,” he says, “and I’m trying to find a way to make an affordable oyster po’boy, too.”

Costing out items, balancing his menu and serving dishes that sell well are all skills he learned prior to opening Soul.

“Putting your heart into a dish because of some emotional attachment doesn’t really work when you own a restaurant,” he says. “I’ve learned that it’s more important, ultimately, that the dishes sell.”

Priester is aware that the food mobile on Alakea Street is a priceless way to advertise his restaurant, because there’s nothing like a taste test to let people know what you do.

“If we can present well at lunch,” he says, “it’s an excellent opportunity to show people what we do well at the restaurant at dinner.”

What the busy chef also has learned since opening his restaurant is that it’s just as important to take a day away from the kitchen as it is to be in there.

“I really admire the chefs who cook at home,” he says with a grin, “but it’s not for me. Cooking is such a Zen like thing for me. On my day off, do I really want to be in the kitchen with performance anxiety worrying that I oversalted the pasta? I just don’t want to go there.”

Soul Patrol

Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.2 p.m.

Corner of Alakea and Beretania streets

Soul Restaurant 3040 Waialae Ave. 735-7685

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