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Cover Story

Empowered By One, Pastry Chef Becomes an Inspiration to Many

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
September 8, 2013

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When it comes to highly acclaimed, award-winning pastry chef JJ Luangkhot, his monumental achievements and years of success can be attributed to one person in particular: Parisian pastry chef Jean-Marc Burillier. Labelled as the best of his kind in 1980s in New York, Burillier served as executive pastry chef of Maxim’s de Paris, a renowned establishment known for its French cuisine. He believed in Luangkhot, who at the time was a 20-year-old lad who came to Manhattan, N.Y., a bustling city miles away from his native Laos.

“I had no long-term plans of working in the restaurant industry, but Jean-Marc took me under his wing for eight years and inspired me to pursue a career creating pastries and desserts,” says Luangkhot, who up until then had no experience in Parisian fare. “I didn’t know anything. Everything I learned about baking was from my mentor, Jean-Marc Burillier.

“I spent 12 years in New York. Then, when he (Burillier) passed away, I moved to Hawaii with the hope of making dreams come true. Jean-Marc told me that he wanted to share his love for French pastries and desserts with as many people as possible, so I wanted to fulfill his dream, along with mine,” says Luangkhot with a smile, reminiscing about his late mentor, who ignited a deep passion within him.

With that, Luangkhot took a giant leap of faith and in 1995 opened the doors to JJ Bistro & French Pastry in Aiea, prior to relocating his restaurant in 1999 to its current home in Kaimuki.

What began as a cafe that housed many of Luangkhot’s sumptuous desserts has expanded into a full-service eatery specializing in a fusion of Southeast Asian and European fare, which boasts an ever-popular Fishermen Feast menu (where seafood is the name of the game and lobster rules), as well as a Four-Course Meal Special. In fact, it’s this prix fixe menu that Luangkhot believes is the créme de la créme of all the restaurant’s offerings.

“Our Four-Course Meal Special (available for lunch and dinner) is one of the best deals in the nation,” Luangkhot affirms. “Many years ago, four-course meals were only available at high-end restaurants in New York; therefore, I wanted to create a four-course meal that everyone could afford.”

With prices starting from $24.70 to $39.95, this four-course spread begins with your choice of Cream of Corn with Crab Soup or a refreshing salad played up with house ginger sesame dressing. Trio Appetizer follows, which features a Baked Lobster Avocado, Crab Rangoon and Shrimp Kataife. Then, experience a culinary crescendo, as the feast heats up with your preferred entree selection, be it Baked Lamb Wellington — rack of lamb with red bell pepper and cheese wrapped in a flaky puff pastry and a side of mashed potatoes complemented by a black pepper cream sauce — or Lobster Pad Thai — stir-fried noodles with eggs and a citrus XO sauce topped with a world-famous Tristan lobster tail.

“Double Grilled Lobster Tails served with fettuccine and shiitake mushrooms doused with a garlic white wine Buerre Blanc sauce is also a customer favorite,” Luangkhot says.

For your fourth and final course, select from any dessert in the glass showcase and you’ll be presented with a complimentary créme brulee on the side.

“Our desserts are unmatched. There are 45 homemade sweets to choose from,” Luangkhot notes. “We want our patrons to understand that desserts are equally as important as appetizers and entrees. The last bite is just as special as the first. Our main goal is to leave a lasting impression on our guests.”

Luangkhot perfected his pastry techniques through his travels abroad in Paris, and now this skillful master creates gorgeous works of edible art from scratch, only utilizing the highest quality ingredients. New York Cheesecake with Lilikoi ($5.25 apiece) and Black Forest ($5.25 apiece) are the two newest desserts destined to appeal to your sweet tooth.

“New York Cheesecake with Lilikoi is a fusion of New York and Hawaii. Here you have original New York cheesecake topped with fresh lilikoi.

“Black Forest is loved by any chocoholic, as it’s Oreo cookies topped with triple mousse chocolate accented by dollops of whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a cherry on top,” says Luangkhot of his signature desserts dressed up with a hint of Island flair.

As a driving force in the realm of local dining, Luangkhot will never stop working hard for his customers. He believes there is always room for improvement.

“I never imagined I would be where I am today,” he says. “Jean-Marc told me that whatever I do, I have to give my best, and those are words that I continue to live by today. We want to make sure that our customers always come back. Chef Jean-Marc Burillier gave me a new life, and I am forever thankful for him.”

JJ Bistro & French Pastry

3447 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
739-0993
Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.