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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 scoop from People’s Cafe chef and owner Thomas Ventura, who shares just what fuels his culinary drive.
NAME Thomas Ventura
TRAINING/EDUCATION I have trained and worked at People’s Café since moving to Hawaii from the Philippines in 1992
YEARS AT RESTAURANT 21 years
Who or what inspires you as a chef/owner? Since I first started at People’s Café, I’ve been inspired by the goal to always learn something new in the kitchen. It was my first real job, and I knew from the start it’d be my career. I learned so much from the previous owner — he inspired me to make the best food I could. Since buying the business, I’m learning a whole new skill set. I’ve been trying new dishes and learning as I go.
What’s your most popular dish? By far the Lau Lau. I make it fresh by hand, using the recipe the previous owner taught me years ago, and our customers love it. I usually sell close to 100 a day.
Is there a dish that you create that’s not on your menu, but available upon request? There’s plenty! The Lau Lau actually isn’t officially on the menu, but people come to us especially for it. I also have short ribs and grilled shrimp skewers I make special on request.
What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received as a chef/owner? Customers thanking me for my food and saying they’ll be back. I can’t ask for anything better. Once I had a customer say I’m not allowed to die anytime soon because my Fried Stew is the best. That was so funny and so great to me.
If you could serve food to a celebrity, who would it be and why? What dish would you serve? Chef Emeril Lagasse. He is simply the best. He is a unique person and I love how he has fun with his audience and those eating his food. It’s great how much fun he has working and I try to always do the same. It’s hard to find words for how great I think he is. I would serve him Lau Lau, my Fried Stew and some Hawaiian Poke. I get the fish fresh every morning and I think he’d enjoy that.
1310 Pali Hwy.
Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m.