Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Chef Hunter' focuses on Merriman's tonight

Food Network photos
Carrie McCully brings restaurateurs and executive chef candidates together on The Food Network's "Chef Hunter."

Attaining executive chef status is a grueling process in itself, made even tougher when cameras are involved. That's the challenge of Food Network's new series "Chef Hunter," which shows what happens when out-of-work chefs head to Kauai, intent on landing an executive chef job with Peter Merriman.

The episode will air at 11 p.m. today, with chefs put to the ultimate test of culinary skill, business acumen and tenacity required to be an executive chef. Beyond the basics of creating a couple of dishes for Merriman to sample, the chefs are given full run of the restaurant for one night and tasked with creating their own menu and serving a packed house of the restaurant’s best customers.

It's not just made-for-television stuff because of the show's real-life implications, according to Carrie McCully, a New York- and L.A.-based professional culinary recruiter, who takes her work very seriously.

In a phone interview earlier today, she said, job seeking on the show "is absolutely harder because they have cameras all around and they're under a tremendous amount of stress. They're literally going in and creating a menu, sourcing all the products, working with a team they never met before, and serving local patrons of the restaurant. It's much harder than the average interview.

"I've never had one chef who didn't say that it was the toughest interview they'd had in their life, and it's been a career changer. Once they experience it, everything else always seems like a piece of cake."

It marks a big commitment to the hosting restaurant as well, who entrusts the chefs with the premises, all its equipment, and its clientele. Though throughout the process, McCully said she and Merriman, one of the architects of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, were right there to observe the chefs' working methods.

"It's important for him to create the right team because he's often on the road, and has to know this person is capable, so he's watching every movement the chefs are making," McCully said, while adding, "Peter is such a professional. He's had so much experience and has a terrific sense of humor, so it's really hard to ruffle his feathers. There were a lot of laughs (over the chef's blunders), like that's happened before."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hank's hosts 'Man vs. Food' weekend

Photos courtesy Hank's Haute Dogs
Hank puts his Seoul Dog, encased in french fries cemented with batter, to the test before it's ready for its closeup.

After taking on Laie's Hukilau Cafe Hukilau Burger, Helena's Hawaiian Food's pipikaula short ribs and laulau, Mac 24-7's Mac Daddy Pancake Challenge in 2009, see how Adam Richman fares when he challenges his humongous appetite with another taste of the islands, on an episode of the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food Nation," airing today.

One of his stops was at Hank's Haute Dogs, where he sampled some of Henry "Hank" Adaniya's latest creations.

"He ate quite of few off our regular menu," says Hank, who also concocted some "new wild creations for him to try."

"Man vs. Food" host and food daredevil Adam Richman gives Hank his approval.

He doesn't know which dogs will actually have screen time—I'm betting on the Seoul dog—but to mark the occasion, Hank's will be presenting a "Man vs. Food" Weekend beginning Dec. 2, with specials as follows:

Dec. 2: Lobster Fat Boy. A lobster dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried and served with garlic aioli, lettuce and tomato.
Dec. 3: Seoul Dog. From the streets of Korea. Fries are batter-glued to an all-beef dog planted on a stick, deep fried, then served with a kim chee mignonette!
Dec. 4: Tsunami Dog. This is what you get when you combine a foot-long hot dog, kalua pig, BBQ poi sauce, pineapple relish, pickle onion and cabbage.
Dec. 5: Truffled Italian beef combo. The iconic Chicago beef sandwich paired with housemade Italian sausage, then covered in the house truffled cheese sauce.

Hank's Haute Dogs is at 324 Coral St. Call 532-HANK (4265).

The tsunami dog.

Zippy's a finalist for national beef award

Zippy’s Restaurants is a finalist for the National Beef Backer Award, which will be presented at the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, Feb. 1 through 4, in Nashville, Tenn.

The finalist status came with Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council and the Hawaii Beef Industry Council's awarding Zippy’s the 2011 Beef Backer Award for the company's support of the beef industry.

The organizations cited Zippy’s as a leader in beef promotion for chain restaurants. Hawaii’s beef industry hopes that consumer and food service use of local ground beef will create enough purchasing volume to continue to keep local production viable.

For the competition, Zippy’s Research and Development Chef, Wayne Komamura, developed a recipe reminiscent of an old-fashioned, kama’aina style, homemade hamburger, using beef grass-fed, home-grown beef.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holiday open house at Whole Foods

Nadine Kam photos
Amidst the season's pumpkins and gourds, Natalie Aczon, center, introduces media to the joys of the Whole Foods Market holiday table.

Whole Foods Market hosted a preview of a few of its offerings for the holiday table on Nov. 9, in advance of a free public tasting taking place 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 18, for those in search of tasty new ideas, want to simplify their holiday food needs, or just want a nibble of their turkey before committing to bringing home their whole prepared bird on Thanksgiving Day.

Each department will be rolling out samples of favorite holiday edibles, including roast turkey, roast ham, cranberry chutney, and more.

Before starting the tour, Natalie Aczon, Whole Foods Market Kāhala's marketing supervisor, shared that the company does its best to be transparent in its standards and practices so that those interested in health and sustainability issues know just what they're getting.

They feature edibles from 250 local vendors, with more on the way, she said. The only fish they carry is farmed or live-caught within 100 miles of the islands, and meat purchased here is vegetarian fed, with no hormones or antibiotics.

Whole Foods shoppers line up for a taste of juicy, tender turkey, below, and cocktail shrimp.

If you're considering picking up a cooked turkey, choose from free-range birds, to kosher to organic, or smoked turkeys, at about $6.99 to $9.99 per pound. The market is also one of the only stores to carry made-to-order turduckens—a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. Custom orders are being taken at 738-0820. Options can also be viewed at

Easier still, pick up dinner for six, at $99.99, which includes a 10 to 12 pound turkey, 48 ounces of stuffing, 24 ounces of gravy, 60 ounces of mashed potatoes and 16 ounces of cranberry sauce.

A la carte sides are available as well, from, cornbread stuffing to an autumn puree of butternut squash, carrots and yams, to fruit-juice sweetened pies.

Of course, the holidays don't end with Thanksgiving, and more free holiday tasting events will take place from 4 p.m. Sundays in December, on the 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd.

The store is also inviting all its 4,000-plus Twitter followers to a holiday-themed wine tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 17. Those who can't make it can eavesdrop on the event by following #wfmkahalawine at

If you need a potluck side dish, Whole Foods has plenty of options.

There's organic eggnog.

The eggnog was conveniently placed next to Jeanne Toulon's tasting table for Koloa Premium Hawaiian Rum. The Kaua'i Spice Rum, with its spice cake, caramel and vanilla flavor, is perfect for the holidays.

The tour started with Big Island Garnet yams.

It's good to see kids learning to eat healthfully and craving purple sweet potatoes.

Various flavors of Ohelo's Mango Chutney were presented with ham, crackers and blue cheese. I loved the Hawaiian chili pepper flavor on ham.

Cranberry cheddar wasn't part of the "official" tour, but with samples available, I got sidetracked. It's amazing how a handful of berries flavored the whole cheese.

An edamame-feta dip was presented as a low-fat, low-cholesterol alternative to typical mayo-based dips. The recipe follows.

The day we visited was also the day Whole Foods started carrying Daniel Anthony's hand-pounded pa'iai.

Here's the dip recipe:

Edamame-feta dip
(From Eating Well magazine)
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add edamame and garlic; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until edamame is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Place the edamame, garlic, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid, feta, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree, scraping down the sides as needed, until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl or storage container.

Place plastic wrap directly on surface of dip and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to blend. Thin with additional cooking liquid to desired consistency, if necessary. The dip will keep, covered, in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Serve at room temperature. Makes 1-1/3 cups.

Nutritional analysis per tablespoon: 31 calories, 2 grams fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 2 g carbohydrates.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

YuZu splashes into scene

Nadine Kam photos
Motoko "Moco" Kubota shows YuZu's lotus pizza.

YuZu Hawaii hosted its grand opening party Nov. 3 at its location on the ground floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. The casual bar concept described as "not your grandmother's Japanese cuisine" is the latest project of Isamu Kubota and Motoko "Moco" Kubota—following Kai Okonomiyaki, Kaiwa and Hale Macrobiotic—who continue to feed us in novel ways.

The couple still lean healthy, using veggie-based mayo, gluten-free tamari, housemade dashi and focusing on locally grown produce.

In spite of their having done this countless times before, the restaurant wasn't quite ready when guests arrived, only to be left standing outside while the room was being set up. Food and drink were also slow to materialize and when platters did arrive, there was so little food on them that a mere six people could clear a whole tray if they merely grabbed two skewers of yakitori chicken.

It got to a point where people stood around the table and swarmed the minute a plate landed. I called it a fish feeding frenzy and Yelper Thomas Obungen corrected that it was more like watching piranha!

One of the restaurant's pieces of food-related artwork.

I have to admit it was a bit scary, like being in the center of a mosh pit at times when I was just trying to take a photo, surrounded by an immediate circle of photographers, and outer circle of hungry people armed with chopsticks and forks. In those moments, I looked for a gap in the human wall to slip through, without risking grabbing a bite. It made no sense to try to grab a plate either, because by the time you got back, every scrap would be gone.

What I did sample was simple fare of french fries with yuzu aioli, garlic and regular soy beans, and tender yakitori that also paired well with the aioli. There was also a lotus-cheese pizza which could also be doused with Yuzu-It!, a bottled yuzu-pepper sauce.

One big selling point is that most of the menu items are priced at less than $10.

After I left, others who were there tweeted me about the udon I missed. Three kinds—(hoso, thin round), (gokufuto, wide flat) and (futo, thick round), will be prepared fresh daily and cut to order. I look forward to trying it without battling a crowd.

YuZu is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner service from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., with full bar service, and parking is free at Ala Moana Hotel, or just walk over from Ala Moana Center after one of your holiday shopping tours.

Organic french fries can be dressed with a housemade ketchup or yuzu aioli.

Garlicky soybeans.

Tender yakitori, umm-umm good! Get them teriyaki style, or spicy. Both are salty, made for the bar set.

Ball-shaped temari sushi are named after the temari balls crafted from kimono fabric. Featured here are hamachi with jalapeño and sake sushi.

Bon Ton Girls reunite at OCC

Nadine Kam photos
Luncheon host Dr. Thomas Sakoda, and the Bon Ton Girls, clockwise from top right, are Gladys Goka, Peggy Ono, Dorothy Nakama, Lillian Hatae and Jane Lyman.

The Bon Ton Girls continued their annual lunch tradition, meeting at Oahu Country Club Oct. 28. Their friendship dates to the 1930s and '40s, when they were all employed at downtown Honolulu's first grand department store, Bon Ton, or its sister store, Bon Marche, until the businesses closed after World War II.

More than simply employees, the women banded together as a social club, picnicking, dating and presenting fashion shows together, and it's great to see them together again. I somehow became an honorary member after writing a story about the stores' history and the Bon Ton Girls back in 2008.

Hosting the getogether was Dr. Thomas Sakoda, the son of the stores' longtime general manager Horace Sakoda.

The women still have healthy appetites. Here's a little of what was on the table:

Pan-roasted salmon over baby bok choi.

A curry trio served with basmati rice.

A clubhouse sandwich, or two.

Grilled turkey breast cobb sandwich.

Lobster sandwich. Not bad, but I'm still looking for Honolulu's definitive lobster sandwich/roll.

Strawberry Napoleon dessert.

Courtesy Gayle Ozawa
The group shot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kahala introduces curry winner

Nadine Kam photos
A beautiful array of crab claws and mussels topped the Thai green seafood curry. part of the Kahala Hotel & Resort's weekly lunchtime International Curry Bazaar.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort augmented its popular Wednesday International Curry Bazaar all-you-can-eat buffet with the Oct. 26 unveiling of its "All in the Family Curry Contest" winner, whose dish will be among the curries featured from noon to 3 p.m. every Wednesday in November at the Plumeria Beach House.

Contestants entered a favorite curry recipe via Facebook or Twitter, and Noella Monteiro won with her grandmother's recipe for yellow shrimp curry. The Pakistani recipe is saturated with turmeric and spices that was toned down for mass appeal. Those who like their curries hot were welcome to add more chili to the dishes, as well as condiments specific to the various styles of curry. To accompany Monteiro's curry, there was toasted, shredded coconut, cranberries, peanuts and raisins.

An Punjab-style chicken-spinach curry came with options of mint and mango chutney and cucumber-mint raita.

Lanterns graced the Indian curry table at The Plumeria Beach House at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, home to a popular lunchtime curry buffet.

The contests celebrates family tradition, which is also true to the Kahala's philosophy of sharing the flavors of the kama'aina table. A Thai seafood curry was based on an intern's family recipe, and the recipe for Japanese beef curry is that of executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi's mother ... or at least the basic recipe came from his mom. He admits to having played with it over the years, for example, adding more vegetables as he grew to appreciate vegetables more.

In talking with the chef, he realized that the curry played a big part in his early culinary forays. He said he would often think of ways to improve on recipes for curries and hamburgers, giving his mom suggestions of "adding a little salt here, a little pepper there."

He said he didn't realize at the time, but he was learning how to blend flavors and adapt recipes to his taste, learning that he could add sweetness to a dish not by simply adding straight sugar, but maybe a little bit of apple for subtlety.

The buffet, with curries that change every few weeks, includes soup du jour, and a selection of salads and desserts, and is priced at $30 per person (tax and gratuity additional). For reservations, call 739-8760, or e-mail Reservations are also taken at

The Kahala's executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi shared his mother's recipe for Japanese beef curry with kabocha, carrots and shiitake. He enjoys this curry with condiments of takuan, pickled ginger and tsukemono.

Noella Monteiro was the winner of the hotel's curry reccipe contest, sharing her grandmother's recipe for yellow shrimp curry. Her prize is two nights in an ocean view room at The Kahala, dinner for two at Hoku’s and breakfast in the Plumeria Beach House.

I arranged a small sampling of the four curries offered on my plate. Each had its own condiments. Monteiro's, at front right, could be dressed with peanuts, cranberries and toasted coconut.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HFWF's grand finale

Nadine Kam photos
John Besh of the Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans and James Beard Best Chef of the Southeast 2006, cooked up Molokai shrimp and andouille and served it over baked jalapeño cheese grits. I'd heard it was very good, but I was too full to try it.

With 15 chefs, plus winemakers, mixologists and dessert purveyors stationed on the lawn at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort for "Mauka to Makai: Hawaii's Sustainable Future," on Oct. 1, the finale of the spectacular three-day Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival, there was more than enough food and drink for the evening's 1,100 guests to handle.

I say "handle" because for those who took in two or all three days, could barely manage to sample six or seven more plates, much less sample all the chefs' creations.

The inaugural festival—one of, if not the biggest food festival held on Oahu—was a major feat for James Beard Award-winning chefs and co-chairs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, and executive director Denise Hayashi, who drew on their international cred and connections to draw their illustrious roster of chefs. Usually, festivals with this caliber of talent have taken place on the Big Island.

Evening 1 at the Modern Honolulu drew 800 for its focus on "Streets of Asia: Morimoto and Friends, Evening 2 gave way to a Halekulani Master Chefs Gala Dinner Series aimed toward the 270 elite diners who could afford a $1,000 ticket or two. During the days there were chocolate and wine tastings, a food-oriented fast-pitch session with Dave McClure of 500 Startups which provides seed money for entrepreneurs, and discussions of the 21st century table in Hawaii and innovations in the food and farming industries.

When it got dark, Rick Moonen's fiance, art director turned photographer Roni Fields, guided me to the light for this photo.

Moonen served up striped marlin poke with tropical vinaigrette, hearts of palm, Waialua onion, inamona and lemon balm.

The Hilton's Great Lawn could barely contain the event, with reserved tables in the center forcing those without tables to crowd the perimeter. I finally got smart and crossed through the central area whenever I had to move quickly. In trying to get photos of all the visiting chefs, I think I sampled just five or six dishes that night, and even had to pass on some of my favorite foods, I was so full. I was amazed when skinny people told me early they had not only made a complete circuit, but tried everything!

I did make it a point to try town's pig's feet though, after being told by a couple of people, including L.P. "Neenz" Faleafine how good it was, "and I don't even like pig's feet!" she marveled.

To promote sustainability, all the chefs were provided with local ingredients to use in their creations. In addition to the host chefs, the night's roster featured:

John Besh, John Besh Restaurants, New Orleans
Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
Celestino Drago, Celestino Drago Restaurant Group, Los Angeles
Dean Fearing, Fearing’s, Dallas
Michael Ginor, Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Lola, New York
Ed Kenney, Town, Hawaii
George Mavrothalassitis, Chef Mavro, Hawaii
Peter Merriman, Merriman’s, Hawaii
Rick Moonen, Rick Moonen's rm seafood, Las Vegas
Michel Nischan, Dressing Room, Connecticut
Philippe Padovani, Padovani’s Grill, Hawaii
Jeffrey Vigilla, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hawaii
Marcel Vigneron, "Top Chef Bravo," Marcel's Quantum Kitchen TV, Los Angeles

Marcel Vigneron, who gained national notoriety in season two of Bravo's "Top Chef," and now with his own reality series, "Marcel's Quantum Kitchen," presented Big Island moi and pork belly with pineapple poi, sea asparagus, hon shimeji and micro shiso, below.

Marcel accommodated several fans who wanted photographs.

Host property Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeffrey Vigilla with the wok-fried Kauai shrimp tempura that crowned the kiawe wood-smoked Kahua Ranch beef he was also serving with Hawaiian brown sugar-black rum BBQ sauce, Surfing Goat cheese and kabocha puree, micro arugula and radish. The assembled dish, below:

It was hard to track down Roy Yamaguchi, who was all over the premises as event co-chair, along with Alan Wong. Finally caught up with him as he greeted Deena Nichols, senior vice president of Macy's West, right, and Laura Townsend, also of Macy's.

Alan Wong served up Keawa Nui Farms sweet and meaty Molokai shrimp with Sumida Farms watercress, below. He is one busy guy, who will be giving a culinary demonstration and signing copies of his cookbook, "The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong," from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Williams-Sonoma store at Ala Moana Center. He'll also be hitting the road with food historian Arnold Hiura on a "Taste Hawai'i" tour of the San Francisco Bay area from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, with culinary demos, tastings and book signings. Details are at

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On the plate: 'Ama'Ama

Nadine Kam photos
The entry to 'Ama'Ama, Aulani A Disney Resort & Spa's new contemporary restaurant.

What a treat it was to venture out to out to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, last week. It may have been work, but it felt like a vacation to wander the newly open resort at Ko Olina.

A team of us went out for a first look regarding our respective beats of dining, art, entertainment and travel. By late afternoon, I was starving, having skipped lunch, so a couple of us stayed to check out lunch at the resort's contemporary restaurant 'Ama'Ama.

It was a hot lazy day, and so relaxing to look out over the ocean during the late lunch that started at about 2:30 p.m.

Food—just a burger, chicken sandwich and kalua pig buns—took a long time to come out of the kitchen, so by the time we were finished it was 4:30 p.m., which is OK if you're a tourist and have all the time in the world.

What I really wanted to do was return for dinner, and my review appears in the paper on Sept. 21, 2011. Essentially, the quality's high, but I couldn't help thinking it was created to Disney taste, with all the middle-of-the-road sweetness that implies. Here's the pictorial version.

Stepping through the entryway to a world of relaxation and leisure. Can't you just feel yourself breathing deeper and your shoulders relaxing already?

The room by day.

On the lunch menu, pulled pork, local-style, $14.

A starter of Hamakua mushroom "tart," really more like an elaborate crostini also topped with arugula, coriander creme fraiche and Parmesan, turned out to be one of the better dishes I tried, at $16.

Head-on grilled jumbo shrimp ($18) was painted with sweet barbecue sauce, too much for my taste, but good for those with a sweet tooth, who like to bury their food in sauce.

This side of souffle potato (I was expecting it to be mashed) was fun. I like potatoes anyway, and these were deep-fried to puff up like balloons. The trick is to eat 'em while they're hot without filling up before you've touched your entree.