Top Chefs Celebrate Roy’s

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 20, 2008
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Roy Yamaguchi
Roy Yamaguchi with Roy’s Hawaii Kai executive chef Ronnie Nasuti and corporate executive chef Jackie Lau

So I was having one of those “wouldn’t it be great if ...” conversations one night about a year ago with Rainer Kumbroch while sitting at the bar in Roy’s Restaurant Hawaii Kai. Rainer is the director of operations, and he’s always looking for the next big thing in food.

I guess I was thinking along the lines of a beachside, three-day food event, or a plate lunch festival, when he said with a smile, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the best 20 chefs in the world to come to Hawaii to celebrate Roy’s anniversary?”

Well, don’t make any plans for the third weekend in October, because those 20 best chefs are on their way. Charlie Trotter is coming, and so are Ron Seigel and Alessandro Stratta. Stratta is the executive chef at Renoir at The Wynn, Las Vegas. He’s the guy with an impossibly romantic background and amazing talent.

Seigel is executive chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, but you probably know him as the first American to defeat a Japanese master chef on Iron Chef.

Ming Tsai is coming too, along with a chef credited with being one of the most creative, cutting-edge in the country, Rick Tramonto (foodie note: local connection is hot dog king Hank Adaniya). Nobu Matsuhisa, the world-renowned sushi master, will be a part of the weekend, but since he opened his acclaimed restaurant, Nobu, here last year, well, we practically think of him as family. John Besh, the talented New Orleans superstar chef, Lee Hefter (Spago), Tony Liu (local boy, KCC grad and executive chef of August in New York) and Michael Ginor, (owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras) will be here, too.

For the staff at Roy’s, the event is exciting, overwhelming and a lot of work.

“It’s quite an illustrious group,” says Rainer in typical understated style. “It’s exciting to see this happening - and it’s also about time.”

The 20th anniversary celebration of Roy’s will be a three-night affair (you can bet all of them will last until the wee hours.) First, there’s a private reception at an unnamed Diamond Head luxury home for the chefs. Next, there’s a sit-down dinner for 250 guests with expected ticket prices at around $1,000 per head, and the main event will be open to about 1,500 people.

“We’d love it to become an annual event,” says Rainer, “and hopefully it can be something that happens every year. But this one will be the road map, the one that shows it can be done and that we can host an event of this magnitude in Honolulu.”

Too little space here to mention all the star chefs and their achievements, but here are some more of the big names ready to hit town in October: Floyd Cardoz, Sam Leong, Michael Lomonaco, Raphael Lunetta, Tamara Murphy, Charlie Palmer, pastry genius Francois Payard, Don Pintabona, Eric Ripert, Hiroyuki Sakai, Hiro Sone, Lissa Doumani, Chinese food master Yuji Wakiya and Australia’s most-famous chef, Tetsuya Wakuda.

And if you want to hear more about each chef as they prepare to take over the Islands, I’ll be interviewing them all over the next few months and running the podcasts on our website.

What this event says about Hawaii’s place on the culinary stage is impressive. But really it says more about Roy Yamaguchi and the respect he inspires wherever he goes. We might see him shopping at Safeway, cooking at his Hawaii Kai restaurant or having the occasional cocktail at Side Street Inn - but that doesn’t diminish the fact that he’s one of the culinary world’s brightest and best loved stars.

Happy eating!

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