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Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite restaurant? Well, much credit goes to the many chefs, owners and managers who work diligently day in and day out to make sure Hawaii’s diners have a top-notch dining experience.
This week, Dining Out gets the inside scoops from Asahi Grill’s cook Cliff Doctolero, who gives us a little taste of Asahi Grill and shares just what fuels his culinary drive.
NAME Cliff Doctolero
TITLE Cook at Asahi Grill
TRAINING/EDUCATION KCC Culinary Arts Graduate
YEARS AT ASAHI GRILL Three years
Who or what inspires you as a chef/manager/owner? I like to cook a lot. It started in high school when I enrolled in a food-service program for students. I enjoyed it more and more, and had a teacher who pushed me to enroll in KCC’s culinary arts program. Being able to try new things with different ingredients, put them out there to see how people like them is fun. I always want to keep improving, though. I try to do so by continuing to put new dishes and specials on the menu and seeing how customers respond.
What’s your most popular dish? Our oxtail soup is by far the most popular. We need to cook about 400-600 pounds of oxtail every week to keep up with the demand! We boil the meat for hours to make it soft so it falls off the bone, and that also gets the flavor out of the meat. Ox-tail has much more flavor than regular beef. Even though there have been some changes to the restaurant over the years, we still offer the same oxtail soup people remember from Kapiolani Coffee Shop at Kam Bowl many years ago.
Is there a dish that you create that’s not on your menu, but available upon request? Right now, we’re trying some new stuff out. Our Oxtail Stew is something we’ve been working on and may add to the menu soon. We also are looking to offer more vegetarian options. For example, Tofu and Mushroom Stir Fry is something that started out as a special, but because it’s been so popular we just put it on the menu. A lot of people don’t know that we offer Veggie Fried Rice, so feel free to ask for that. We will always try to accommodate special requests, or if there is a special you had here that’s gone now, you can always ask and we’ll try our best to see if we can serve it to you.
What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received as a chef/manager/ owner? When people say they enjoy the food here, or when regulars come back to visit us again and again, it’s very rewarding, but at the same time, it’s a team effort. I never really thought about those things being a compliment to me because everyone working in the kitchen and on the floor is a part of a customer’s experience. Although, if I create a dish and put it on the menu, and it becomes very popular with the customers, I think it’s great and it pushes me to keep trying new things.
If you could serve food to a celebrity, who would it be and why? What dish would you serve? I would serve Alan Wong. Since I started cooking I’ve always looked up to him as a chef. I find inspiration in a lot of different chefs, but he is a stand-out for me. I’ve never met him personally, but I’ve seen him working while I was at KCC, and I like his style of cooking and the dishes he creates. I’d serve him Oxtail Stew. We’ve been working on making it another signature dish for the restaurant. Even though you might find it on the menu at other places, we do it our own way so it has a different flavor that will stand out.
515 Ward Ave.
Sunday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.