Cooking With Class At Hoku’s

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 01, 2006
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Hoku’s Chef Wayne Hirabayashi with “The Chef in the Hat” Thierry Rautureau
Hoku’s Chef Wayne Hirabayashi with “The Chef in
the Hat” Thierry Rautureau

There was a period, about maybe six or seven years ago, where guest chef dinners were the way to dine out. Foodies weren’t worth their salt unless they dined at Bali By the Sea once a month in the company of such celebrated culinary stars as Andre Soltner (Lutece). I loved those Bali dinners. The chefs would come out and sit down with us at the table and talk about their life in food. Everybody drank enough wine to have a good time and ensure that conversation flowed, and no one ever seemed in a hurry to leave.

I learned so much about food and wine during those long evenings. One night, the evening after Soltner had cooked dinner, we ate with him and his sister, and they told us wonderful stories of their childhood in France. Soltner told me tales of coming to America in the 1950s when people were eating canned food and TV dinners and you could hardly find fresh vegetables anywhere.

They sent me postcards from time to time, and of course I tried to make everything (mostly unsuccessfully) from Soltner’s beautiful book.

The only awkward part about the Signature Series (as the dinners were known) came at the end of the meal, with Bali’s famous chocolate Diamond Head. I like chocolate. Really, I do. Just not that much all at once. As soon as I’d get a glimpse of the dry ice streaming from the top of the volcano and wafting across the tables I’d think of a reason why I could-n’t eat another. None of the excuses ever worked, and at one point I had seven of them in my freezer. (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to freeze chocolate, but what would you have done with perfectly molded replicas of Honolulu’s famous landmark?)

I still miss those dinners - and hope one day that Bali will bring them back.

But I was thrilled last week to see that Hoku’s is adding another element to its highly successful cooking classes by inviting guest chefs to both teach and cook at the hotel.

As part of the Kahala Culinary Academy Program, classes are offered most Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and they are either demonstrations, where Wayne Hirabayashi and his team teach the gathered group, or “hands-on” classes where students get into the kitchen and work with the chefs, and a guest chef comes to cook.

Such was the case last week, when Thierry Rautureau (otherwise known as “The Chef in The Hat”) came to town to sign books, give classes, and guest chef at Hoku’s. Rautureau is the chef/owner of Rover’s in Seattle, and brought a taste of his Pacific Northwest regional cuisine to the islands.

And celebrity Chef Todd English will be the guest chef and teach a class at Hoku’s March 17 and 18.

Hirabayashi, who graciously shares his kitchen with visiting chefs - and culinary students - says the classes and guest dinners are all great fun.

“It’s a really neat way of seeing what other chefs around the country are doing,” he says, “and of letting them see the kind of amazing produce we have here in Hawaii.”

The classes at Hoku’s are well attended and can sell out quickly. Recent classes have included dishes from the menu at Cabanas, and exploration of new ways with rice, and a hands-on class using vanilla. They range in price from about $65 per person and include lunch and recipes.

For more information and to book classes, call 739 8780.

Happy eating!

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