John Hightower

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 04, 2012 Share | | podcast Podcast |

Jo McGarry photo

Occupation: Executive Sous Chef, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel

Where were you born and raised? Pearl City.

What started your culinary path? In 1969 I was working at Hickam and I met a chef who thought I had potential. He brought me to Sheraton, and after I’d worked for a year, the hotel sent me to the Culinary Institute of America as its first-ever culinary student. I’ve been with Sheraton since then more than 42 years!

If that chef hadn’t spotted your talent, what do you think you would have been? A photographer. I was already on my way I was the Eastman Kodak Photographer of the year in 1966 and then I changed direction.

Would you have changed anything on the way? Very little. I dedicated my career life to Sheraton, and I’m happy to have done so.

There’s still time for people to come to see the gingerbread village that we’re standing in front of. Yes, it’s on display through mid-January. It’s the creation of our executive chef Ralf Bauer and we are helped by our pastry chef Amie Tungpalan.

I can’t even imagine the work that goes into it. We start in September, and it takes eight weeks to build and then three complete days to put it together. Each year Chef Ralf adds something new this year it’s Aloha Tower.

It’s an incredible feat. Do you start dreading it around about August? (Laughs) No! It’s a lot of hard work, but so many people enjoy it that it’s so well worth it. We all appreciate that so many people get so much enjoyment from it.

OK, so after this kind of culinary creativity I’m guessing that you don’t cook much at home. (Laughs) Not too much. On special occasions I do, though.

What’s always in your fridge? Fresh fruit and vegetables. I love salads.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working? For casual food, I think Teddy’s has a great burger. My wife and I like to go to Fook Yuen. On our anniversary we always go to Alan Wong’s. Alan and I became friends when we both worked on the Big Island.

What do you tell young people who are thinking about culinary arts? I go to Radford High School every year for career day and speak to all the kids about being a chef ... I tell them that it’s a great career, but working on holidays is tough. The holidays are when people in food service shine you have to be prepared for that.

How do you and your family cope with the holidays after all these years? My wife is in food service, too, so we have Christmas dinner one week before Christmas. Every year, right before the holidays start we sit down to Christmas dinner. And then we go to work.


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