Kurt Osaki

Jo McGarry
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Friday - July 20, 2011 Share | Del.icio.us | podcast Podcast | WineAndDineHawaii.com

Occupation: President Osaki Creative Group, owner Hukilau Restaurants

Where were you born and raised? Kauai.

Your creative talents are well-known. You’ve designed logos for NFL teams, and of course the distinctive UH logo was yours, too but not as many people know about your restaurant background. I grew up in the restaurant industry. My family owns Hamura Saimin. My grandfather’s first restaurant was Tony’s Charcoal Broiler, a steak and seafood place way back in the ‘60s. I basically grew up around there.

So it’s no surprise, really, that after achieving success with your creative talents, you turned to restaurants. Well, no one pushed me into restaurants when I was young, but someone forced us into running the Hukilau in San Francisco (laughs), and then here in Hawaii. Hukilau was a huge hit from day one on the Mainland.

Was it just the food? I don’t think so. It’s simple plate lunch, but it’s more than that. It’s about the warmth and the energy. That’s what people like.

Do you cook at home? I love cooking. I could cook every night. I enjoy everything about being in the kitchen.

Favorite dishes when you’re cooking?

I like the simplicity of Asian food. Japanese dishes are some of my favorite. I like the purity, the freshness. I’m lucky because of our design group, I get to work with great chefs like Alan Wong and at Hukilau with Jason Takemura.

Favorite local restaurants? When I’m not at Hukilau, it’s Sushi Bistro, Tokkuri Tei I like the izakayas. I pretty much live off Zippy’s. And I just went to that Okinawan place by River Street , Utage. It’s old style. I like that.

What’s always in your fridge? Beer and a lot of local food poke, dried aku, fruits and vegetables from the farmers market.

Who would you most like to have a beer with at Hukilau? Don Murphy, and maybe Anthony Bourdain.

Anything about you that might surprise us? One day I’m going to start my own Hawaiian chili pepper company.

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