2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Christopher Kulis of Capische?

by Caroline Hatchett
Shannon Sturgis
January 2013

Restaurant

Hand-passed Pupus
Chef Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s
  • Soup and Sandwich: Kalua Pig and Mozzarella Sandwich with Hamakua Springs Cold Tomato Soup
  • House-made Portuguese Sausage Pinxto
  • Australian Wagyu Ribeye Pinxto
  • Chopped Ahi Sashimi-Avocado Salsa Stack, Crispy Won Ton, and Wasabi Soy
  • Kalamungai Soup
  • Opihi Shooter, Local Limpet, and Tomato Water, Basil, and Shiso Essences
  • Ho Farms Tomato and Hawaii Island Goat Cheese Salad with Crackseed Jus
  • Hoisin Duck Bao Bun
  • Da Poi Cup: House-made Dryland Taro, Lomi Tomato, and Crispy Pork
Dinner

Pairings by Sommelier Chuck Furuya of Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar and provided by Southern Wines & Spirits of Hawaii

Australian Wagyu, Taro, Spanish Green Peppercorns, Ali’i Mushrooms, and Gai Lan
Chef Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s Pairing: Sangiovese/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, Querciabella, Mongrana, Maremma, Italy, 2009

Braised Cervena Venison Osso Bucco and Baby Vegetable Salad
Chef Brian Etheredge of Capische?
Pairing: Nebbiolo, Guido Porro, Vigna Lazzairasco, Barolo, Italy, 2008

Roasted Australian Lamb Loin, Socca Provençal Chickpea Pancake, Ratatouille, Basil, and Harissa Lamb Jus
Chef George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro
Pairing: Quadrupel Beer, Brasserie de Rochefort, Trappistes Rochefort, Belgium, 2010

Australian Wagyu Short Rib, Vaudovan-curried Oxtail, Hamakua Mushroom Agnolotti, and Manini Vegetables
Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Pairing: Grenache, Maxime François Laurent, Il Fait Soif, Côtes-du-Rhône, France, 2010

On the Bar
  • The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay, Bien Nacido, 2009
  • Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido, 2007
  • Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs, 1er Cru Brut Nature, Champagne, France, N.V.
  • Nordaq FRESH Still and Sparkling Water

A special thanks to Steelite International for providing all plateware and glassware for the evening, as well as to Quality Wine and Spirits for providing wine and beer pairings.

It was a Monday night. Alan Wong's was closed. But the restaurant off South King Street was far from dead.

by Nicholas Rummell
Caroline Hatchett
November 2012

Recipe

Hearts of Palm Facts

Where to buy: Buying it fresh typically requires purchasing from exporters from Costa Rica or Hawaii, two of the biggest exporters of hearts of palm.

How much: Roughly $7 per pound.

How to cook: It can be eaten raw (sliced), steamed, grilled (kept in its outer sheath), and stir-fried.

Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka

Nicholas Rummell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?

Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Doug Kocol

Nicholas Rummell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?

2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Vikram Garg of Halekulani
November 2012

Halekulani
2199 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
www.halekulani.com

Recipe

Photos



2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Ed Kenney of Town
November 2012
2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Doug Kocol of Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar
November 2012


Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Doug Kocol

Nicholas Rummell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?

Doug Kocol:
It is kind of out of a weird happenstance. My first food-related job was delivering Chinese food. It was the only job I could get after playing sports during the day in high school. They got me into wontons and egg rolls. But it wasn’t until after university that I actually worked in a professional kitchen at 20 years old. I realized that college wasn’t the best thing for me. My girlfriend at the time liked having dinner parties and whatnot, and I always ended up cooking for them. My girlfriend said to me “you’re pretty good at cooking, maybe you should go to culinary school or something.” I made buffalo chili at one of those parties, using some ground bison, and my friends said it was the best chili they had in their life. That was my “aha moment.” So I dropped out of college and went from Greeley, Colorado, to Vail and got a job. I worked my way up through garde manger, pizza cook, sauté, fish, grill, etc.

NR: What is your opinion of culinary school. Is it necessary for young cooks?

DK: For me it was subjective. It depends on what manner you learn best. At [Colorado Mountain College], we had to do both an internship and take classes. I worked a bunch during culinary school, and when the restaurants were closed we were in the classroom learning the theoretical [stuff]. So I did both the hands-on and bookwork learning.

NR: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?

DK:
Go with what you feel is best. Go with where your heart lies. Graduating from college for me was more for my dad than myself. I wanted to do it for him. My dad never got to finish college because he had kids. With cooking, I had the desire to learn as much as possible, so that was where my heart was.

NR: How important is travel to a young cook?

DK: I think it’s immensely important. Chef Charles [Hays] always embedded in my head that variety is the spice of life. The more experience and different things you can do the better.

NR: What is your philosophy on food and dining?

DK:
Honestly, I just like good food. I love cooking food. And good company and good people. Anything that can bring people together and have that kind of impact, for emotions, is great for me. Food brings happiness, and I like to be around happiness and happy people.

NR: What culinary trends do you see in the market now?

DK:
I definitely feel that in my time here [on Hawaii], I’ve been pushed toward local food. I know it’s so cliché, the whole farm-to-table, dirt-to-doorknob thing, but I feel like people in Hawaii are actually doing it rather than just talking about it. The whole “from Hawaii” thing is going big now. It was something that we at Salt thought about in terms of pushing the boundaries even further (like having our own octopus fisherman get us tako, or growing greens that are only being used by Salt, or using rabbit from the Big Island). We really pushed the limits on getting local product and maintaining high quality standards. It’s not just us, though. The group at Town is really dedicated to the local farms with Ma’O Farms.

NR: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?

DK:
When I did the stage at Bouchon, the chef and I had a talk outside and he said: “You’ve got the job. You can work here.” And it was one of those things where I went there not knowing what would happen. I was just looking to stage. I had a lease in Vail that was just six more months, and had to pass up the opportunity because I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the lease and move to Napa and work at Bouchon. So I decided then to go another route. I used the money I saved up and flew to Hawaii, which was the polar opposite of the mountains of Vail. It was the final choice. But I don’t regret it.

NR: Do you see yourself somewhere else in five years, or have you been bitten by the Hawaii bug?

DK: Yeah, I love Hawaii. The people here, the melting pot of cultures, the food especially. I don’t necessarily know whether I have a five-day plan. Right now it’s just all about what feels good and what makes me happy. Cooking high-quality food and being surrounded by good people. One day I would love to have my own place. Even before I started cooking professionally, I used to say I wanted my own farm. Now I’ve been considering the idea of a deli. A proper sandwich shop. Retirement plan in the perfect world: I would have a farm and a sandwich shop.

2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka of Alan Wong’s
November 2012

Alan Wong’s
1857 King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
www.alanwongs.com

Recipe

Photos



Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka

Nicholas Rummell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Michelle Karr-Ueoka: While attending the University of Hawaii in Manoa majoring in Travel Industry Management, I had to do an executive level externship in a hotel or restaurant. I chose Alan Wong's. When I went there, he asked me what I wanted to do in life and I said I wanted to be a chef one day. He asked me if I knew how to cook; I said no. He thought I was being humble, but he soon realized that I was telling the truth. I didn't even know how to hold a knife correctly let alone turn on a gas stove. After graduating [culinary school] I returned home to Hawaii, where I went back to work for Chef Wong.

NR: What about your stages? What impact did they have on your career?
MK: When I was at Daniel, it was for savory, but I spent some time in the pastry department as well. It was interesting to be able to see both sides. I spent my time at Daniel while attending the [Culinary Institute of America]. I would go there on the weekends since school was only Monday to Friday. I would leave CIA right after school and then work at night, and on the weekends and take the last train back on Sunday. When it was time for my externship, I left for The French Laundry where I focused on savory, but Stephen Durfee was the pastry chef there and also taught me some pastry ideas. He originally worked the hot line and then became a pastry chef. He was the one who also inspired me to think how the sweet and savory can be intertwined together. I was so fortunate to be there at such a wonderful time. Chef [Thomas] Keller was always there, Eric Ziebold was the chef de cuisine, Grant Achatz was the sous chef, Gregory Short was the sous chef, and Stephen Durfee was the pastry chef. They were such an inspiration.

NR: When did you decide to return to Hawaii?
MK: After The French Laundry, I returned to CIA where I graduated and came back to Hawaii to work for Chef Alan Wong. I worked the savory side for several years and then left for Per Se. At Per Se I spent most of my time with Richard Capezzi in the pastry department and a couple of days in the savory. It was when Jonathan Benno was the chef de cuisine. During that stage it was the turning point for me where I knew being a pastry chef was what my heart desired.

NR: What culinary trends do you see in the market now?
MK: More and more people are focusing on the origins of food. Of course, farm-to-table and buying local, but also about going back to the culture of food. Japanese, Chinese. What traditions were there. For us, it’s just a way of life, but so many more people are doing it now.

NR: What is the status of pastry on the islands?
MK: They seem a little bit more dealing with the savory side of things. I see people going back to comfort food, and trying to do different spins off of that, like the shaved ice or the almond float. Hawaiian people like familiarity. But a lot more pastry chefs are trying to showcase the product and the farm. Like now is mango season, so it’s all about mangoes on the island. One of the farmers once told us that if they don’t make money, they won’t farm, and that’s how you get the next generation to keep farming.

NR: How are you involved in your local culinary community? Is it a tight one? What about older pastry chefs on Oahu?
MK: If I have the time to on the outer islands, I try to do so. On Oahu, I knew the chef from Morimoto, but he then left Hawaii. The chefs here are like one family. You want to help everyone out as much as you can, because then you make the industry stronger and bring greater attention to Hawaii.

NR: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?
MK: I honestly don’t think there is anything I would do over, because everything happens for a reason. Be it a mistake or something I didn’t do right, I learned from. It’s like I always tell my staff, there is no such thing as a mistake, just a moment you learn from. One of the toughest things I had to do was coming to Chef Alan Wong as an extern and pursuing my dream of becoming a cook/chef some day. When I came to him I didn’t know anything. I was in a kitchen that was filled with people who were experienced, with three or more years’ culinary experience. It was overwhelming, but I knew that I had to work three times as hard to catch up.

NR: What does success mean for you?
MK: Passion goes up and goes down, but dedication will help you get to where you want to go. For me, success is being able to do what I want to do, what I love, and make other people happy. Both my employees and every guest that comes in. Nothing else makes me as happy as watching somebody else enjoy the dining experience or watching one of my cooks go onto another job and say “thank you for my time here.”

NR: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
MK: I don’t really know anything else. I know golf. I was on the golf team in Hawaii. That’s what my father wanted me to do. I would probably have gone into business, but I couldn’t imagine anything else [than cooking].

NR: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MK: You’ll probably still find me here [at Alan Wong’s]. Right now I’m in the midst in doing Pineapple Room desserts right now, which is a more casual style. And we’ll do wedding cakes eventually. I would like to see us have a bakery eventually, which had all the different ethnic influences. Now you’d have to go to Chinatown to get Chinese bakeries. There is no bakery that has all those influences, and are contemporized but still done in a familiar way. My other goal is to be nominated and hopefully win the James Beard for pastry chef in the near future.

2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Cameron Lewark of Spago
November 2012


Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Cameron Lewark

Rachel Willard: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally? How did you get into the business?

Cameron Lewark: I’ve always had a passion for cooking and I grew up with a single mom who worked two jobs and have to come home to make me dinner. I felt bad so I started to cook for the family. Then I started watching a PBS show called “Great Chefs.” That furthered me into cooking and I also started experimenting with game and meats like deer and pheasant starting when I was in the fourth grade.

RW: What is your philosophy on food and dining?

CL: I truly believe in utilizing local fresh farms and helping the local community. We always have been farm-to-table, I know it’s a popular thing now but we have been doing if for years.

RW: What culinary trends do you see in Hawaii?

CL: Hawaii follows all the same trends on mainland but it takes longer to reach here because it’s so secluded from the outside world. It gets to us later.

RW: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?-

CL: The most important thing is to work in the business. It’s hard to choose what path they are going to take. Do you want to be a hotel chef or restaurant chef? There are a lot of choices. You definitely want to immerse yourself in that world before you enter it. Most importantly, if you’re not willing to sacrifice your life for work—don’t become a cook. Sacrifice is a good word for it.

RW: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary background?

CL: I can talk for hours about this—it all depends on the individual. If the individual is going to “get” school, then yes, go. If they didn’t do well in high school or college or anything then no, probably not. No matter what, throwing yourself into practical experience is the best. Normally, people know—I wasn’t good at school, but I was smart enough to know not to go [to culinary school] and started working when I finished high school, and a little bit during high school.

RW: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job? Or a challenge you have had to overcome?

CL:
Going back to the word sacrifice, you have to be willing to sacrifice your personal life, relationships, your family, holidays—it takes a toll. But that sacrifice is also the most rewarding in the end.

RW: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?

CL:  Early in my career, I would have probably gone to Europe to travel and cook for a while.  

RW: What does success mean for you?

CL:
Success … well, I don’t think there is ever a level of success, in my world it’s unachievable. But it’s trying to achieve the unachievable. The pursuit of the unachievable. Happiness has to do with it too—if one is happy they have succeeded. I love to cook and doing what I love makes me happy. It’s certainly not about money, or a budget.

RW: How do you define Hawaiian cuisine?

CL:
It’s definitely a melting pot of different cultures from Portugal to China to Japan. They were brought over [years ago] to work the fields for cheap labor and that has created a unique kind of cuisine.

RW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

CL: In a kitchen. Hah. No, I’m an associate partner here and with that, I don’t see myself going anywhere any time soon.

2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Christopher Kulis of Capische?
November 2012


Interview with 2012 Hawaii Rising Star Chef Christopher Kulis

Rachel Willard: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally? How did you get into the business?

Chris Kulis: I started cooking when I was 15 because I needed a job and money—and a car—in that order. Working at a restaurant, I got addicted to service and the fast paced lifestyle. The addiction later turned to passion. That was 15 years ago. I was more interested in cooking than high school and luckily that paid off for me.

RW: What is your philosophy on food and dining?

CK: I like to have fun with traditional aspects and local products. We have all these beautiful fish here, so I’m not going to just bring in salmon. I use the ingredients I have around me to make the food that I would eat. That’s what it really comes down to.

RW: What culinary trends do you see in Hawaii?

CK: There are a lot of younger chefs that are trying to get away from older Hawaiian techniques and traditions—we have a lot of guys who are trying to step it up. When I got here 6 years ago, it was a little scary, a little abysmal. It’s now exciting. It’s fun that everything is moving forward. Hopefully that will continue.

RW: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?

NR: To get their culinary school paid for. I’m almost done with mine now. No, just having standards from the get-go and sticking with it. Whether you are  cooking at your house, your restaurant or someone else’s, you have to have the same quality and care, no matter what. That’s what I try to do. You keep those standards and skills and don’t let anything change that. Always listen to that little voice, that conscience.

RW: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary background?

CK: I hire my cooks without background who have a passion for food. But I’m glad I went, not for the cost but for the doors it opened up. When I went to [the Culinary Institute of America], the amount of different food I ate and the people I saw and met took me all the way to Bouchon. It depends on the person but, for me, it made it more of a career that just being a cook. It’s the best decision I ever made for myself.

RW: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job? Or a challenge you have had to overcome?

NR:
Obviously, when you’re first starting out, finance is a big thing. You don’t get paid much for years. It’s hard to work your ass off and struggle without getting paid. That was hard but then everything becomes one-sided. Balance of life becomes hard to do. Living my life and running the restaurant is my biggest struggle.

RW: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?

CK:  I don’t know. If I did something over, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Not to say that all my decisions have been the best, but I wouldn’t have what I have now. I also might need a few more years to figure that one out.

RW: What does success mean for you?

CK:
In this industry, it’s just making people happy. Every night can be a success. That’s what we try to do. Its constant, every night people come here on a honeymoon or because they heard about a really good meal. It’s not about a little write up or even a James Beard Award. We are here to make the people happy.

RW: How do you define Hawaiian cuisine?

CK:
I don’t feel like my food is Hawaiian. I take different techniques and local ingredients. I think local cuisine is growing and it’s going to be constantly changing. Hopefully, we will even be getting local olive oil here in Maui. It’s a whole different ball game now.  

RW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

CK: Personally, I would like to see myself with a wife and family, but as far as my career, as long as we keep on the path and keep growing. Making  Capische? and side projects even more successful. You know, the sky is always the limit so I will keep heading in that direction.
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