A culinary voyage

Restaurant Insider

November 13, 2023

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Roy’s Hawaii Kai and Lawrence Tabudlo

Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

Chef Roy Yamaguchi will be celebrating his 35th anniversary with seven of his famous chef friends. The Voyage of Flavors event, which honors the Yamaguchi’s culinary legacy, on Dec. 6 at the original Roy’s Hawaii Kai location will include the master chef himself plus chefs Celestino Drago, Dean Fearing, Michael Mina, Raphael Lunetta, Vikram Garg, Jonathan Waxman and Alan Wong. Tickets are $250, which includes tax, gratuity and three drinks.

I met up with chef Roy to talk about his rich history in the culinary world and his deep appreciation for not only food but the people who make it.

Roy’s Kiawe Smoked Szechuan Baby Back Ribs (contact for cost).

AL: Have you known these chefs throughout your voyage?

RY: Yeah. They’re great people to hang out with, they’re just good people with big hearts, and on top of that, they’re great chefs.

AL: What have you eaten that really stands out?

RY: The food that my parents made me. It was always made with love and care and because they wanted to nourish. Not only did my mom enjoy cooking for us, but she used to love watching us eat. It used to bring her joy. I based a lot of my cooking on theirs to start, then started to add other things.

AL: Other than your parents’ cooking, what is the most delicious thing you’ve eaten?

RY: I don’t know about anybody else, but I get different cravings for certain things, and when you actually end up eating what you’re craving, it tastes better. Some days you crave fried chicken, or sometimes ramen, sushi or something very elegant. I like things that are very flavorful. I like bold flavors.
If I go out for dinner, I’m going to eat a chicken because 99% of the time that’s what I want. And, I love turkey. I can eat turkey three times a week if I have a choice.

AL: Any words of wisdom from the last 35 years?

RY: I’m just extremely happy that we’ve been around for 35 years. I’ve seen a lot of people grow. At the end of the day, I believe that we have a great restaurant and we’ve had a chance to work with a lot of great individuals. We’ve had some stay, but we’ve had a lot leave and do their own thing, and it’s great to see.

What really brings me joy is not what I’ve accomplished, but what we’ve been able to do to help others and for them to become successful. To me, that’s a big deal.

AL: How do you stay relevant?

RY: Reflecting on 35 years in the culinary industry, it’s important to consistently improve to meet high expectations from guests and because the restaurant industry demands consistent effort.

Restaurants come and go, and customers are always looking for something exciting, and we can continually learn more and to deliver what the guests expect. They know that it’s supposed to be a very good restaurant, so we have to live up to that.

It’s important for us to teach ourselves and to work at it on a day-to-day basis and not take anything for granted.

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