Chef Mark Noguchi has been in Hawaii nearly his entire life. Having grown up in Manoa, he lived for many years on the Big Island and now works (and plays) on Oahu. Noguchi (a.k.a. “Gooch”) attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi’olani Community College and then the Culinary Institute of America before taking his first job as a cook at Kona Village Resort on the Big Island. Later working at some of the leading restaurants in Hawaii, including Town and Chef Mavro, Noguchi has been a constant reminder that Hawaiian cooking is only as constrained as it allows itself to be.
In early 2011, Noguchi decided to strike out on his own, helping to open He’eia Pier General Store & Deli off the side of a highway on the north side of Oahu, wedged between pick-up trucks and fishing sloops. Noguchi’s culinary philosophy—to use only fresh, local vegetables, fish, and meat—is shared by the cooks at He’eia, many of whom grew up fishing at the same pier.
In July 2012, Noguchi again sought to change the Hawaiian stereotype, pulling up stakes from He’eia to form his own catering company, Pili Hawaii. His goal is to get away from the tradition of poorly executed catering on the islands and instead provide “thoughtful food” to events and to treat each catering gig as a singular one. But he’s also supporting other chefs; Noguchi—who received the 2012 StarChefs.com Hawaii Rising Star Community Chef Award—has partnered with local lunch trucks and Taste Table to showcase myriad on-island talent.