Island Chefs’ Hopes And Dreams For 2010

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 06, 2010
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Roy Yamaguchi, Dean Okimoto and Alan Wong

New Year’s Eve is a bit stressful if, like me, you’re from Scotland. With traditions to keep and bad luck coming in through the front door if you let it, there’s a lot to do before the bells strike 12 at midnight.

I have found life a lot less stressful since I moved to Hawaii 18 years ago. Part of the New Year’s tradition where I’m from involves cleaning - everything: doorsteps, windows, cars and kitchens. Anything that isn’t shining is some kind of bad omen for the coming year. At least it always seemed that way to me. I followed tradition a bit too strictly this year and washed my phone. I think it might have survived a heavy wash, but an hour in the dryer removed any hope of retrieving phone numbers. Clean? Yes. Working? No chance. So if you’re reading this and you’re usually on my phone list, send me your number, would you? ...

While I was waiting in line at the phone store and resolving to be less hasty with the laundry, I decided I’d ask my chef friends about their hopes and dreams for this coming year.

Sam Choy has already achieved something of a miraculous personal goal in shedding more than 150 pounds. “I want to keep going, and keep in shape,” says the now nearly svelte shadow of his former self, “and I want to be more helpful to people.”

There’s a reason Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi are super-successful chefs. They are driven. When I asked them individually for their goals, they both shot back detailed lists.

Wong wants to travel, cook up a new concept and continue his work with local farmers. He also has a Zen-like approach to the possibility of a continuing depressed economy. “I want to stay calm in the midst of chaos and move forward,” he says. “And I want to go back to school. There are some things I need to learn.” Yamaguchi, he of more than 30 restaurants nationwide, feels he “needs to learn more about the industry” in which he thrives. “I also want to work more closely with our chefs, promote sustainable Hawaii seafood, continue to promote culinary aloha around the world and start farming.”

I told you these guys are driven. He also wants to complete the Honolulu Marathon in less time than he did this year. No, I don’t know where he finds the time either.

Chef Mavro has resolved to find even more local farmers. “I do rely on my longtime sources,” he says, “but this year we discovered Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo, and every week we now pick up fresh green peppercorns and kumquats. We’re about cooking with small amounts of local ingredients.” Chef Kevin Chong, who more than ably assists Mavro, resolves to “find and hire more local talent for our kitchen.”

Deep in the Waimanalo vegetation, Dean Okimoto is preparing to grow new crops in 2010. He’s already producing honey on his farm and is hoping to grow ginger, too. “We’ll be planting more beets and root crops like daikon, radish and even yellow micro greens,” says the celebrity farmer. You can look for the micro greens soon in local restaurants.

And Chuck Furuya, always on the lookout for great food and wine, has a New Year’s wish to visit Osteria Mozz in Los Angeles. It’s one of superstar chef Mario Batali‘s restaurants. “He is the real deal,” says Furuya. “His restaurants always deliver something tasty.”

The theme, I guess with these highly motivated chefs, is learn more, do more, be more.

I hope your resolutions lead you into a happier state of mind, and a prosperous 2010.

Me? I’m just trying to keep electronics away from water.

Happy eating!

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