Keoni Willing

Jo McGarry
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Friday - August 31, 2011 Share | | podcast Podcast |

Jo McGarry photo

Occupation: General Manager, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Where were you born and raised? Waianae.

What sparked your interest in the restaurant world? I actually fell into it. I started at Little Caesars in Waianae when I was still in high school. All through college I worked in restaurants, because art doesn’t pay the bills. Then I started bartending and opening restaurants. I found I enjoyed the whole process of working with staff, training, menu planning.

What’s important when you are choosing staff? The first interaction is really important for me. You don’t have to have a great resume, it’s much more about how you are with people because that’s what’s going to happen in a restaurant. Body language can make people feel very invited or not.

Who taught you to cook? My grandmother, Mary Makaena.

Is there something she made that you still remember the taste of? Hamburger steak. Hers was the best for me. Wherever I go, hers is the one I compare.

Anyone come close? (Laughs) Zippy’s, actually.

Oh, maybe because they’re using beef raised on the Big Island. What else did she teach you?

The importance and the joy of preparation. If you come to my house for dinner it might be an hour, it might be three hours. But it’s always relaxing.

What’s always in your fridge? Fresh vegetables and always something pickled onions or turnips and tons of condiments. I love condiments.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? My grandmother. I’d like to share with her what I know now.

What do you tell people when they ask about Downtown? That we serve local food and by that we mean locally grown and produced food in a Mediterranean style. Local first, organic when possible and served with aloha. That part is very important to me.

What would you recommend from the menu? One of the contorni (side dishes) and a daily special.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working? I love Vietnamese food, so Super Pho. And I usually go to town (restaurant) for dinner.


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