The Legacy Of Swiss Inn In A Bottle

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 02, 2011
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Taisei Lee now produces his Uncle Martin Wyss’s popular Swiss Inn Salad Dressing

For a restaurant that’s been closed almost as long as it was open, Swiss Inn still has a remarkably strong fan base. When the Niu Valley restaurant closed its doors in 2000 after 18 years of serving home-cooked Swiss dishes, chef owner Martin Wyss had ideas of travel and taking things easy. But devoted foodies can be a persuasive bunch, and Wyss has been regularly tempted out of semi-retirement to guest chef at hotels and restaurants around the island. Most recently he was back in the Kahala Resort kitchen he opened in 1964, cooking with Wayne Hirabayashi.

But as much as people remember Wyss and his wife, Jeanie, they also remember a particular creamy salad dressing - one so popular that when Swiss Inn closed, salad dressing production continued.

“My Uncle Martin’s salad dressing is something that people have always loved,” says 26-year-old Taisei Lee, Wyss’s nephew, who is determined not to let the family recipe disappear. “There are so many people who enjoyed this dressing for the 18 years that Swiss Inn was open,” he adds, “we want to keep production strong and give Uncle Martin some time to do other things.”

Lee has taken over production of the Swiss Inn Salad Dressing, with the blessings of his uncle, who really is hoping to retire this time around.

You’ll find the dressing in restaurants (Luibueno’s in Haleiwa, The Contemporary Museum Café, and Christies in Waimalu Shopping Center,) and at Tamura’s, select Times Supermarkets (Kahala, Kunia, Kaimuki and Beretania), R. Field and Foodland Farms in Aina Haina.

“It’s doing really well in all the stores and restaurants,” says Lee, who is keen to expand production. “We’d like people who miss the restaurant to know that the dressing is out there.”

While making the popular dressing, Lee also has been working hard honing his hospitality skills at Roy’s Ko Olina restaurant these past six years.

“Making the dressing is one thing,” says Lee, “but working at Roy’s has given me the structure I needed to learn more about food. It’s developed my palate, taught me a lot and helped me on a number of levels.”

What’s the secret to the near-irresistible “typical Swiss” dressing?

“Oil and vinegar, lots of garlic, onions and black pepper,” says Lee, “and a couple of other secret ingredients,” he adds with a grin.

If you are one of the restaurant’s devoted fans still bemoaning its loss all these years later, a taste of the peppery, mustardy dressing might be enough to instantly transport you back to nights in Niu Valley with the aroma of osso bucco wafting from the kitchen. And, depending on the success of this venture, we might see more Swiss Inn products on the supermarket shelves.

“I want to carry on the legacy my uncle started,” says Lee. “So who knows what we could make next ... there are a lot of his recipes people still miss today.”

Happy eating!

You can hear Lee talking about his dressing at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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