Those Kitchen-hopping Chefs

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - September 21, 2005
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Jay Matsukawa of J at the Willows

Sometimes I think the restaurant industry is a bit like that game Six Degrees of Separation. If you thought about it long enough you could easily come up with six degrees of separation from, say, Roy Yamaguchi. Those of you with enough time on your hands, feel free to get separating and let me know ...

In the meantime, so many chefs have separated from familiar territory and are at new places I thought it helpful to do a round up of who’s moved where in the past six months or so.

Todd Wells, executive chef at Diamond Head Grill, left there to work with Doug Lum at Mariposa, and has since left Doug to branch out on his own, though not in a culinary sense, apparently. Award-winning chef Guilluame Burlion has filled his vacant spot. If you haven’t stopped by DHG yet to try the new menu, then make plans as soon as possible. Call to see if Chef Burlion is in the kitchen first, though. While he’s doing a superb job coaching the whole kitchen staff into a new way of working, it all works way better when he’s there.

Jimmy Gillespie left the Executive Club over a year ago and headed over to Sunset Grill, where I thought he made some terrific changes to the menu. He’s out of there, too, now, and you’ll find him at Koolau Ballrooms (at Koolau Golf Course), preferring I guess, the more anonymous world of weddings and catering to the bustling world of ribs and red wine.

The position at Koolau became open when Chef Khamtan Tanhchaleun left to go to the Hawaii Prince Hotel to fill the spot vacated by Goran Streng (yes, he of the massive Thanksgiving turkey basting marathons), who is now doing his own thing at the Hawaii Yacht Club. Phew.

Jimmy’s vacant spot at the Plaza Club was filled for a while by Jay Matsukawa, who left the Willows to go to the Plaza Club, and who has now returned to The Willows to run its very attractive fine dining restaurant, J at The Willows. Still with me here?

Robert Miller is filling Jimmy’s spot at Sunset Grill, and Jay’s spot at The Plaza Club has been filled by Mariano Lalica, and no, I didn’t have time to find out where he’s from ...

Elmer Guzman left Sam Choy’s some months back to open his own store, The Poke Stop, leaving a big old hole in the kitchen. It’s been filled by Aaron Fukuda. Elmer’s store is doing incredibly well, and all reports are of an outstanding selection of fish, poke and kicked-up plate lunch-style

dishes to go. Residents of Waipahu can’t believe their luck that such a fine fish store has landed right in the middle of their neighborhood. I see franchising in this talented chef’s future. A Poke Stop in every neighborhood - doesn’t that sound like a good idea?

When Fred DeAngelo left Tiki’s last year to devote his attention to his catering company, Olino Events, his vacant spot was ably filled by Wolf Levine, formerly of The Hard Rock Café.

And it doesn’t seem to matter who’s cooking at the Chart House, the food is always really good. Longtime chef James Sadarin has just parted ways with Joey Cabrell and Scott Okamoto, and sous Chef Randy Manuel is filling in quite well.

So, now you know where everyone is. Or was.

Happy eating!

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