The Skinny On Restaurants

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 14, 2007
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'The Chef' Roy Yamaguchi and 'Da Farmer' Dean Okimoto
‘The Chef’ Roy Yamaguchi and ‘Da Farmer’ Dean Okimoto

At the risk of sounding like Garrison Keillor, it’s been a quiet month in the restaurant industry. One can only hope that the impending holiday season brings a much-needed boost to all. But while the restaurants may be quiet, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes ...

Roy Yamaguchi launches another new product this month. His food production company, Da Farmer and The Chef, introduced a line of salad dressings last week with a tasting party at the chef’s Hawaii Kai restaurant. Chefs Ronnie Nasuti and Jackie Lau used the dressings in a variety of pupu-style dishes, proving that the three flavors (Creamy Honey Herb, Tangy Sweet Onion and Thousand Island) are for more than just drizzling over salad.

In case you’re wondering, “Da Farmer” is Waimanalo farmer Dean Okimoto, who says the strong friendship he shares with “The Chef” is the building block of the company. Ex-Sam Choy‘s chefs Troy Terorotua and Grant Sim are part of the development team.

The hardest part about starting a new food product line?

“The tasting,” says Okimoto. “One day we tasted for six hours - Roy almost threw up.”

No reflection on the dressings I’m sure, which can be found in most supermarkets this month ...

Paul Ah Cook, one of the restaurant industry’s most popular and congenial personalities, abruptly left Ruth’s Chris Steak House earlier this year and is now about to make a major move to become one of three very big players in the food and beverage industry. Can’t guess where? Here’s a clue: He’ll be toasting his new position with some really nice wine ...

I bumped into chef Todd Wells the other day and we shared a short elevator ride to Elua, where he’s working as a mediator (just kidding) between chefs Donato Loperfido and Philippe Padovani. Wells, who left The W’s Diamond Head Grill to open a furniture store, has returned to the kitchen, realizing that putting food on tables is more fun than selling them.

“I’m back,” he says, adding, “Working with these chefs is a great experience.” ...

Adding to the growing list of fine-dining restaurants within retail stores, Nordstrom has hired ex-Ruth’s Chris executive chef Nawai Keko’olani to head its culinary team. Keko’olani left the steak house in October and is currently training on the Mainland. Taking his place at Ruth’s Chris is Kyle Yonashiro, who left Lulu’s in Waikiki to join the steakhouse team. Yonashiro honed his skills with some highly respected chefs, including Fairmont Kea Lani’s chef Tylun Pang.

No word as yet if Yonashiro’s killer lamb chops will make it onto the Ruth’s Chris menu, but I’m told he’s already creating special dishes for the Restaurant Row location ...

Concerned about your health after last week’s report that processed meats might be bad for you? (Someone spent money to come to that conclusion?) Then head over to Hank’s Haute Dogs in Kakaako, where Ashley Brooks and owner Hank Adaniya have perfected a seafood sausage. The Lobster Dog is a quarter-pound sausage combination of lobster, shrimp, scallop and fish, with scallion, garlic, carrots and spices. It’s the Friday special at Hank’s place on Coral Street. “Our ‘lobstah’dog is simply wonderful,” says Hank.

Happy eating!

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