New Books From Chefs Wong, Ellman

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 15, 2010
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Chef Alan Wong (center) with Big Island ranchers Michelle and Al Galimbax

There has never been an easier time to find local gifts for foodies. A bounty of new cookbooks, dozens of locally made products and enough food to fill a pantry make for some of the best gifts this holiday season. Among them is The Blue Tomato, chef Alan Wong’s first cookbook since New Wave Luau was published 11 years ago.

Inspired in part by the creative thinking of children, Wong tells a nice story about how he went to an elementary school in Hilo and was asked by a child if he could make blue ketchup.

“Kids grow up thinking that ketchup is red because they see red tomatoes,” he says. “Imagine the possibilities if they grow up thinking that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The Blue Tomato (Watermark Publishing, $40) is a beautiful cookbook, with photographs by David Murphey, Yasuo Kondo and Wong, who has become something of an enthusiastic photographer himself. The book showcases recipes that reflect where Wong and his culinary staff are today, and highlights his love of looking at local food in a different way. One of the most attractive-looking dishes (and one that’s sure to impress at holiday parties) is Oyster Shaved Ice with Red Onion-Jalapeno Granite, a dish inspired by shave ice.

“Who in Hawaii doesn’t like shave ice, right?” says the chef. “I try to take the local foods that people like to eat and then incorporate them into new dishes.”

For local foodies, the book is a must-have. Best-loved dishes from Wong’s restaurant are included, as are many of his imaginative and seriously playful takes on foods such as burgers, fries and tuna sandwiches. Don’t expect them to look like any you’ve tasted before. You’ll find the book in local stores and at

While I was talking to Maui chef Mark Ellman for this week’s F&B Focus column (see Page 93), we had a fascinating conversation about some of the chefs and local people who contributed to his new book, Practice Aloha: Secrets to Living Life Hawaiian Style (Watermark Publishing, $15.95).

“I think a lot of chefs can relate to being asked what ‘aloha’ is all the time,” says the soft-spoken Ellman. “Our mission in our restaurants is to practice aloha, so I wanted to find out the real meaning and what it means to people.”

He originally wanted to point curious tourists to a book on the subject, but couldn’t quite find one that fit the bill.

“We asked about 150 people to give their own interpretation of aloha,” says Ellman, who has included writings from A-list friends Nick Fleetwood and Helen Hunt, among others. A bunch of local chefs contributed too.

“There are 10 chef friends in the book,” says Ellman, “and they all generously shared recipes.”

Ellman didn’t include any writing from the Dalai Lama, although he did recently spend three days cooking for him (not the first time) and described the experience as very spiritual.

“The Dalai Lama is truly a sweet, loving person,” he says.

Personally, I loved the entry from local chef D.K. Kodama, who writes about the person who, for many of us in Hawaii, will always be the epitome of aloha: Sandy Kodama, his mom.

Happy eating!

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