Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Chart House WaikikiRestaurant Insider
August 2, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC
ANNE LEE speaks with president/owner of Chart House Waikiki JOEY CABELL
Surfing Legend Joey Cabell, is the president/owner of Chart House Waikiki. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to share a meal and learn about his legendary career. His love of the water turned him into a famous world-renowned surfer, which also paralleled into his love of skiing — a sport in which he competed professionally in the ’60s. He’s also a skilled craftsman, who built a 43-foot catamaran and a successful restaurant career. And, after 52 years of Chart House Waikiki, Joey continues to navigate these times with amazing positivity and is open to new opportunities.
AL: You were the undisputed King of Queens (The Queens surfbreak in Waikiki) at the age of 15. Tell me more about your surfing career.
JC: I was born on Dec. 10, 1938, in Honolulu and grew up in Waikiki. I started surfing at age 7. Looking out at Waikiki, I saw the surf and I knew I wanted to be a surfer. I had a chance to surf with some of the best surfers of the period, and many of them looked after me.
In the early ’60s, I began to surf competitively and went on to be the most successful surf competitor of the decade all over the world. Alongside Fred Hemmings and Paul Strauch, I traveled the world representing the most famous Hawaiian surf team. In 2015, I was one of four notable kamaaina inducted into the Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame.
AL: How has COVID impacted Chart House?
JC: In all of the years I have been in the business, there has been nothing like this. Our restaurant has always had a strong local following, about a third, and then Japanese would be a third; the other third would be from everywhere else in the world. Now, we only have our locals, which is not enough to keep us going. We had a huge business, and now it’s nothing due to the virus.
AL: What changes have you implemented for guests’ safety?
JC: Making sure that our staff wear masks, and guests also have masks (may be removed when eating/drinking, seated at their table); tables are moved 6 feet apart; we sterilize everything.
AL: How are you using social media to stay in contact with your guests?
JC:This story starts and ends with the Endless Summer. I was a part of the Endless Summer movie tour in the ’60s. Fast-forward to 2020, with our tale of the Endless Summer. We are kicking off Joey every Sundays at 11 a.m. on Instagram Live to showcase memorable restaurant experiences — who was in the restaurant that week, from surfers to celebrities and musicians, to stories like the restaurant fire in the ’70s, to the memorabilia on the walls. My Instagram will be giving people an update of what’s happening in the restaurant, filled with legendary stories of surf and sailing.
AL: Chart House has been around for over 52 years. What types of stories can you share that have happened?
JC: In 1975, we had a fire here that burnt everything to the ground. The rumor that we have heard is that the intention was to burn down the restaurant around the corner, but nothing was confirmed. Luckily, this was late at night when we were closed, so no one was injured. All that was left was a cement casting of the petroglyphs imported from the Big Island that was hung in the dining room, and in the kitchen the stainless steel sink where we washed dishes. The next day, all of our staff gutted and cleaned up the entire place, and we rebuilt it again from scratch. We did it all in one year, and it looks exactly the same as it did when we first opened, down to the artwork.
AL: What are some bestsellers?
JC:Joey’s Famous Garlic Steak ($38, 5 ounces; $54, 9 ounces). It’s filet mignon marinated in a special Italian dressing sautéed in garlic. Ahi Mignon ($39), a baseball cut of ahi, very thick and marinated for five hours in teriyaki sauce, seared rare. When its served, you slice it and dip it in melted butter; it melts in your mouth. We offer a Grass-fed 8-ounce Bison Tenderloin ($55) that comes from Ted Turner’s ranch. It’s a new item that we launched. My personal favorite is the Chilean Sea Bass ($42), with a little bit of the pasta and sauce. The Filet Mignon & Shrimp ($48) has also been popular.
AL: Tell me about the Guy Tai and Joey’s Margarita.
JC:The Guy Tai was created by our bartender Guy Maynard, and has won an award. This version is so unique, as they make their own blends of syrups and juices to make this concoction. The Joey’s Margarita has all the top shelf offerings, some Grand Marnier and that touch of something extra. This isn’t on the menu but is ordered often.
AL: What other favorites are on the menu?
JC: Joey’s Margarita, Joey’s Garlic Steak and Joey’s Arugula Salad. These are good, so I put my name on it!
AL: Anything else you want to share?
JC:Wherever you see wood in the restaurant, we built it. If you look up at the light fixtures, the grates were made like a deck of the ship, and the light will come through (it’s illuminated at night). We built the bar, cooking stations, the stairwell, the tables and chairs all by hand.