Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Halekulani BakeryRestaurant Insider
December 11, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Halekulani food and beverage director JOSEPH DIVER
There are lots of things to celebrate at Halekulani, including the long-awaited reopening of Halekulani Bakery. It’s the first branded food and beverage outlet outside of Halekulani, located across the street and adjacent to the Halepuna Waikiki lobby.
A series of pop-up events leading up to the official opening date of Dec. 22 will offer customers an opportunity to purchase a sampling of tasty treats and drip coffees to tantalize taste buds. Check it out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 at the Halekulani Gatehouse.
Joseph Diver, the newly appointed director of food and beverage, joined me at the bakery to sample some specialty items. Working for well-known industry icons such as Merv Griffin to opening casinos all over the country, the end game is customer service. We discussed how this 30-plus-years industry veteran and world-traveled hospitality expert found his way to Waikiki, and how he’s taking everything he has learned and elevating the direction of this world-class resort’s culinary ideas to the next level.
AL: How did you get into this industry?
JD: My mother had a catering company, and my grandfather was a contractor. Dabbling in both industries, I could work in a kitchen at 12 years old and also helped build houses in high school. When I went to college, I went back to hospitality and worked at the Dupont Country Club in Delaware. Over the course of three years under an apprenticeship program, I learned many different roles in food and beverage. It was a busy place and hospitality was key. I learned that immediate gratification felt good and the allowance for creativity created the path for my calling. This led me to change gears from political science and enroll in culinary school.
My wife, who is an RN, and I are both from the East Coast. When we met, we agreed to leave our hometowns and venture out and explore. From Atlantic City, we moved to Chicago, where I opened up Hollywood Casino from scratch as director of culinary operations/ food and beverage director. Then, I went to Fairmont in Chicago when Richard Swig was the owner; Saint Louis Adams Mark; Wintun Tribe at Cache Creek Casino and Resort for five years in California; Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas; and finally back to California to open Red Hawk Casino, where I hired Shawn Smith as assistant executive chef. Shawn previously worked at Orchids, and that made the Halekulani connection, which is how I got to Hawaii. Before Hawaii, I opened up Grand Sierra Resort, then headed to Ilani Resort in Vancouver, Washington.
AL: What is the takeaway away from working with casinos and luxury resorts?
JD: What is unique in the casino industry that many may not necessarily realize is that we have the same responsibilities to our guests. On the casino floor, we see these guests every day that feel invested. At the end of the day, you either want to take care of the customer or you don’t. To be in this industry 30-plus years, I enjoy that challenge of trying to meet or exceed guests’ expectations, providing experiences that are unique or different. The difference may be how guests pay for the experience, whether it be a point system or rewards, but there is still a high expectation of service and food quality. One of the advantages of working in a profitable industry such as a casino is that you have a lot of resources that can accommodate guests’ requests, similar to the concierge luxury resorts. Consistency in service and continuity is key in any market — that is our responsibility.
AL: Halekulani Bakery will be opening Dec. 22. Until then, there is a pop-up event. Can you share more details?
JD: Out of an abundance of caution, we had an existing operating restaurant, Orchids, where guests could order breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our executive pastry chef, Pauline Lam, has provided a fresh approach. We have the opportunity to show some new menu items and, of course, our signature favorites. To start, we will offer the convenience of grab-and-go options for guests and locals.
The first pop-up date was Dec. 4 and there will be two more dates offering the specific bakery items:
• Dec. 11: Pabana, Chocolate Croissant, Mango Blueberry Muffin, Epi and Baguettes
• Dec. 18: Salted Caramel Croissant, Everything Croissant, Macadamia Nut Sticky Bun and Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookie
Items can be purchased individually or all together at the pop-up. Items are limited on a first-come, first-served basis.
AL: What can our readers expect for the future of Halekulani restaurants?
JD: We look forward to introducing additional seasonal offerings to our menus with emphasis on freshness and peak quality. We will also continue to develop the Italian-inspired menu in Orchids to feature authentic regional cuisines from Italy.
Expect special events in La Mer and Orchids that highlight our chef’s creative processes that tell a story about the inspiration behind the dish.