East Meets West

Cover Story

June 30, 2024

Story By: Dining Out Team | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Butter Poached Kona Lobster

Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel & Resort offers multicourse gourmet meals, sophisticated service and an upscale dining atmosphere. With menu items ranging from Japanese A-5 Wagyu Pipikaula to Fish and Poi, Hoku’s caters to those who seek a fine-dining experience that showcases Hawaii’s local flavors.

This edition of Dining Out highlights Hoku’s unique culinary experiences: its Huakai Chef Series, during which a guest chef joins Kahala executive chef Jona than Mizukami to collaborate on a menu for a one-night-only dinner. The latest installation, set for 5:30 p.m. July 13, features Chung Chow, chef and co-owner of Noreetuh in New York City.

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Chow takes a personal interest in the cuisines and cultures of East Asia and the Pacific Rim. He spent a number of years living in Japan and traveled throughout Korea, immersing himself in the cultures, languages and food.

He graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu program at the California School of Culinary Arts and has a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language from University of Hawaii at Manoa. We caught up with Chow and Mizukami to learn more about the special event. For more info, and to purchase tickets for the dinner, visit hokuskahala.com/hokus-events or call 808-739-8760.

DO: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of this event?

CC: This dinner is a collaboration with chef Jonathan Mizukami, who I met during my time working at Per Se. At the time, chef Mizukami came to New York to work with us, before finally moving to Napa to work at The French Laundry.

JM: This is my first time working with chef Chow. He was in NYC and I was in California. I only know him by reputation, that he is a wizard of technical skill, especially his foie gras work. The goal of the Huakai Chef Series is to bring great chefs to Oahu to offer the lo cals an experience without them having to leave the island. The past chefs that I brought in I worked with at The French Laundry, so it is nice to see how they are and how they progressed.

DO: What can people expect from this unique culinary experience?

CC: People’s expectation of this dinner really depends on the diners’ experience eating at different restaurants. As you know, flavor combinations in the culinary world are finite, and it is our job as chefs to hopefully create combinations that some may not have yet experienced, or highlight ingredients that are less popular, but deserve attention. Overall, if we can offer a dinner that is fun, inspiring and delicious, then we have achieved our objectives. As far as the menu choices for the dinner at Hoku’s, I wanted to showcase dishes that have interesting flavor combinations, but still be familiar and thought provoking.

JM: Each Huakai is very different because each chef has their own philosophy and style. I want to keep it exciting and interesting. The menus and dishes will be served for one night only. Moments like these are special, and I don’t think they can be reproduced.

DO: Chef Mizukami, what is your thought process when choosing a chef to collaborate with?

JM: The current process for picking a chef involves chefs that I work with or have some connections with. So far, all of them have worked for Thomas Keller. I pick chefs who will excite people, have a Michelin Star and are of the highest caliber.

DO: What is one dish from the upcoming dinner that you would like to highlight?

CC: I am making a scallop dish with Parmigiano cheese and a truffle-scallion puree. I think this is interesting because not many people get to experience scallop crudo/sashimi with cheese.

DO: When did you take an interest in becoming a chef?

CC: Growing up, I didn’t want to cook as a profession. As a kid, I would sometimes hang out with my mom and sisters as they were preparing dinner, and I think through observation and eating a lot of home-cooked meals, it created a catalog of flavors and techniques that I sometimes look to. It wasn’t until after living in Japan did I want to pursue cooking more, and that’s when I decided to go to culinary school.

JM: I have always loved to eat and enjoyed going out to nice dinners. Cooking is a way to connect oneself to one’s past and to each other. All families have recipes that are passed down through the generations, and that is to connect to the past and where we come from. Also, it brings back memories of time spent with loved ones who are no longer with us.

DO: Any advice for aspiring chefs?

CC: If you are new to the kitchen scene, I would tell aspiring chefs to work part-time in a properly operated restaurant first before diving in 100% as a career. If you like what you see and are willing to put in the time and sweat to work your way up, then give it a go. This is an industry that requires a lot of commitment, focus, hard work and sacrifices. It is not a career where financial incentive is the reason you want to be in it, nor is it glamorous or entertaining like how it’s depicted on television.

JM: Dream big. No quick fix can replace working hard. Nothing is given to you. It takes dedication, focus, and determination. Be kind and respect the environment, culture, your peers and your mentors.

Honolulu, HI 96816

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best