How in the world did a guy who grew up in Hawaii end up at the Duke’s extension in Huntington Beach?!
Right! The Duke’s first two restaurants were in Kauai and Waikiki but I had to move to SoCal to cook Hawaiian food! I love it, though. I truly grew up in the culture of Hawaiian cooking, so I really feel like I’m sharing my home with people here.
When did you first decide you wanted to cook?
When I was about 8 year old and cooking outside with all the men from my family and village. Passing down “recipes” and ways of cooking is prominently woven into the island culture, and the whole experience of it had me hooked. I used to race home from school to watch Japanese subtitled “Iron Chef” shows … that was about 1994. I was enthralled.
Did you ever think you were going to be something besides a chef?
I played rugby from about junior high on up. I eventually played pro in New Zealand … not for the All Blacks because they still don’t accept overseas players into the team … but for the Canterbury Crusaders. It was a great run and a lot of fun travel but, in the end, my heart wanted to be in the kitchen.
What’s your favorite food to cook at Duke’s?
I like the Banana Leaf Fish entrée because it resonates with being home in the islands and cooking your protein in a banana leaf over the open fires there. It creates such a beautiful steamed fish. We finish it simply with a hot sesame oil and topped with micro-cilantro. It’s simple but so, so good.
And what’s your favorite food to cook, period?
Spam fried rice. No question. It makes me happy.
What do you think of participating in your first OC Chef’s Table?
It’s crazy to be in company with so many amazing chefs! I just feel honored to be in the room with these people. I’ve heard such great things about OC Chef’s Table for the last few years but never suspected I’d be invited to participate. I’m really looking forward to the experience. Time to bring it!
The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 3, 2019.
In it 6th year, OC Chef’s Table continues to help Illumination Foundation raise funds to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes …